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Is the usage of "certain" in these newspaper articles correct?

Excerpt from Mutual funds for P1,000 a month (Inquirer.net) (emphasis mine):

"Because remember, you're acquiring shares. So it's good for the investor ... You can never get the timing right when you invest, but if you're doing it on a monthly basis, you're indifferent to how the market moves, because your objective is really to reach a certain amount in terms of investment over a certain period of time," she says.

Cognizant of the market's demand for better yield, Pami allows switching from one fund to another.

"What we're really pushing for is diversification, maybe have a certain bucket in fixed income, a certain basket in equity-based funds and then a certain portion in the peso and dollar funds," Morales says.

The closest definition of "certain" in this context on Oxford Advanced Learner's dictionary seems to be: "used to mention a particular thing, person or group without giving any more details about it or them". I would like to ask if this definition applies to the usage of "certain" in this context. Or is there another correct definition that applies?


Another example — excerpt from Hazing eyed in death of graduating UP student (Inquirer.net) (emphasis mine):

The village chairman of Talisay, Tiaong, Quezon, Pedro Panopio, who was designated by the family to speak on their behalf showed the Inquirer a statement written by the duty guard of the Veteran’s Memorial Hospital identified as a certain Jonathan Garduce.

He noted in his handwritten statement that Chris was brought to the medical facility at around 1:08 a.m. Monday by a certain “Dr. Francisco Cruz” aboard a white Toyota Innova with license plates ZXB-393, followed by two other vehicles: a Nissan Trooper (WGL-515) and an Isuzu van (XAS-548).

The closest definition of "certain" in this context on Oxford Advanced Learner's dictionary seems to be: "used with a person's name to show that the speaker does not know the person". I understand "know" in that definition to be the fourth definition of "know" in Dictionary.com: "be acquainted with (a thing, place, person, etc.), as by sight, experience, or report: to know the mayor". Does it apply to this or to another correct definition?

It seems that in this context, though, it is used to state that the names are unconfirmed (not from an official source) or just to emphasize the names. The writer of the news article is not expected to know (be acquainted with) the persons mentioned in the article personally, after all.

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You got it right, twice. No questions to answer. –  Kris Apr 30 '12 at 13:30
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@Kris: What Kris said. It's obvious from the context that the primary alternative meaning certain = sure, beyond doubt doesn't apply here, and certain = unknown, therefore unspecified wouldn't make sense either. –  FumbleFingers Apr 30 '12 at 13:35
    
@Kris I guess the answer is yes, then. =) So, in the second example, the writer of the news article is stating that she does not know (is not acquainted with) the person? (Judging from the context, it seems that she just wants to state that the names are unconfirmed [not taken from an official source], or to emphasize the persons' names.) –  galacticninja Apr 30 '12 at 14:01
    
"Certain", like "may" and "determine" is a word that can have opposite meanings, not always disambiguated by the context. At Ready Systems Inc. we flogged any tech writer who used these words with a differential SCSI cable. –  Eli Rosencruft Apr 30 '12 at 14:02
    
@Eli, No need to flog, certainly. –  Kris Apr 30 '12 at 14:27

2 Answers 2

up vote 1 down vote accepted

In the case of "a certain amount", the writer means that the investor has chosen an amount, but the writer is not saying what the amount is for some reason.

The writer may not to specify the amount for many reasons. He may not know what it is. In this case, each investor will have his own amount, and the writer's point is that each person should be concerned with the amount he has chosen and not someone else's. It might be a violation of someone's privacy to state the amount. (You probably wouldn't want your banker publishing the amount of your account balance just so he could use you as an example.) The writer could make up an example amount, but then readers might be confused into thinking that the particular number chosen is important. Etc.

In the case of "a certain Jonathon Garduce", the writer means that there is a specific, real person by this name, but he cannot identify him beyond giving his name. If you tell a co-worker, "Fred Smith was here to see you," there's a possible implication that you know who Fred Smith is. But if you say, "A certain Fred Smith was here to see you," that means that a person came who said his name was Fred Smith, but you don't know him. It is, I suppose, a very specific idiom.

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I was thinking that in the second example, the news article writer used certain to state that the names are unconfirmed (not taken from an official source) or just to emphasize them. Like what I mentioned here, my confusion with the usage of certain in this context is because I am thinking that the news article writer is not expected to know (be personally acquainted) with the people she is reporting about (she doesn't really need to specify it in the article). –  galacticninja Apr 30 '12 at 16:21
    
You may be correct though, that the writer just meant that "there is a specific, real person... but he cannot identify him beyond giving his name". –  galacticninja Apr 30 '12 at 16:23
    
We wouldn't normally expect the writer of a newspaper article to be personal friends with her subjects, but she might know something about them beyond their names. Like if Mr Garduce was a relative or friend of the person in question, or had given the reporter an interview in which he explained his role in the whole affair, than she probably would not have used the word "certain", but would have given some hint who he was, like "the injured man's father, John Garduche", or whatever. –  Jay Apr 30 '12 at 19:20

... your objective is really to reach a certain amount in terms of investment over a certain period of time.

Here certain means particular or specific. So yes, the definition you have chosen is correct.

You are correct with your second definition too. Certain is used there to refer to someone the reporter doesn't know.

This definition is also used informal circumstances to add a jokey, possibly sarcastic, gravitas to a sentence. So the person using the word does know the person they are talking about, but are pretending that they don't either to make the other person seem important or, when used sarcastically, to single them out for ridicule.

For example:

I believe today is a certain Mr. Smith's birthday!

The person speaking does know Mr. Smith and is either bringing him to others' attention, or pretending that they don't know they are talking to Mr. Smith.

As you know, the mechanical bull is currently our of commission. We have a certain Mr. Smith to thank for that.

Again, the speaker does know Mr. Smith (this is not necessarily the case, context is key, but certain is used in this way), however they have decided to imply, sarcastically, that they don't so as to distance themselves from Mr. Smith, which allows the speaker not to be associated with the bad thing Mr. Smith did, so any ridicule or derision is not also associated with the speaker.

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I guess my confusion with the usage in this context is because I am thinking that the news article writer is not expected to know (be personally acquainted) with the people she is reporting about (she doesn't really need to specify this in the article), and that she used "certain" to emphasize the names or to state that the names are unconfirmed (not taken from an official source). –  galacticninja Apr 30 '12 at 13:57
    
The use of certain in the article seems odd to me too. I think, in this context, it seems a bit archaic. –  Matt Эллен Apr 30 '12 at 14:01

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