40 votes
Accepted

Is "a half dozen" necessarily 6, or can it be 5-7?

The most likely answer is: It Depends. If I go to the store and buy half a dozen eggs, half a dozen donuts, and half a dozen muffins, I'm going to be extremely annoyed if when I get home I find only ...
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  • 58.5k
38 votes

What Is the Real Name of the #?

In What Is the Real Name of the #?, a good explanation of this sign is given. Technically, it's called the octothorpe. Called the pound sign, number sign and more recently the hashtag, it actually ...
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37 votes

How do you distinguish between the two possible distances meant by "five blocks"?

Blocks = Streets There is no ambiguity because a block does not refer to distance, but instead to the actual number of streets you cross. If you’re giving directions, go 5 blocks means you go to the ...
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29 votes
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Preparing for metric dominance: alternatives to idioms using imperial units

The question assumes that if metric is dominant, then we need alternatives for non-metric idioms. But this is incorrect. We can still use whichever idioms we want. There are plenty of phrases and ...
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27 votes
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How to write lengths of time in a short way with numbers

The W3 standard uses: hh:mm:ss For simple timestamp, with no seconds, try: 1h54m or: 01h54m Both are readily parsed by a computer due to the h and m and indicating the end of the numeric.
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  • 3,624
21 votes

What would be the metric equivalent of “inching” (or a workable alternative)?

After having consulted a number of resources [1] [2] [3], I have concluded that there is currently no synonym of inching that is based on a metric word. It takes time for ...
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  • 3,243
19 votes
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Should Units of Measure be capitalized?

No, units generally do not need capitalization when spelled out. For SI units, the Bureau International des Poids et Mesures is the authority: Unit names are normally printed in roman (upright) ...
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  • 6,870
18 votes

Is "a half dozen" necessarily 6, or can it be 5-7?

Curiously, the OED says: half-dozen | half-a-dozen The half of a dozen; six (or about six). In its quotes, it does not distinguish when it means 6 and when it means ~6. But for dozen, the OED does ...
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  • 1,536
16 votes

Preparing for metric dominance: alternatives to idioms using imperial units

Be not afraid, in Russia we still use expressions that employ long-passed away names of measurement units like versta, sazhen and arshin. For example, a lanky guy could be called "a versta of Kolomna"...
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  • 3,634
14 votes
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Is it improper to use the Right Quote character, if there's no Left Quote character paired with it?

Inches (like seconds of arc and seconds of time) are denoted by the double prime mark, not a quotation mark, although for ease of typing, it is common to see the straight quotation mark (the "...
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  • 42.6k
13 votes

What would be the metric equivalent of “inching” (or a workable alternative)?

The metric equivalent is "inching". Words move on from their original meaning, and "to inch" means "to move slowly", regardless of what units you actually use to measure distances. Likewise, people ...
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12 votes

How do you distinguish between the two possible distances meant by "five blocks"?

As Mitch’s answer says, in specific contexts like giving directions for a route, blocks are used to specify a route, regardless of distance. But in informal contexts, blocks are widely used as a rough ...
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9 votes

Pluralization rule for "five-year-old children", "20 pound note", "10 mile run"

Some adjectives can only be used to modify nouns, for example the adjective indoor. We can talk about: indoor swimming pools But we don't usually say: *The pool was indoor (not good) We call ...
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9 votes
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What Is the Real Name of the #?

Hashtag Wikipedia The use of the hash symbol in IRC inspired Chris Messina to propose a similar system to be used on Twitter to tag topics of interest on the microblogging network. He posted the first ...
9 votes
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Word that refers to the "quantity/amount" of floor?

You would say: Acres and acres of plywood floor Because floorage is an areal measure. Afternote (Text rescued from potentially ephemeral comments.) Because I couldn’t see how the asker’s two ...
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  • 127k
9 votes

What would be the metric equivalent of “inching” (or a workable alternative)?

The arbitrary units of old had centuries to be the basis for words and phrases. While the modern (US) inch is from the 20th century. Inches of variable lengths have been since at least the 1300s in ...
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  • 5,348
8 votes

What Is the Real Name of the #?

The sign has multiple names and meanings: Per Wikipedia: The symbol is a Number Sign in North America with Pound Sign making in-roads as a name. Outside North America it has always been called a ...
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  • 22k
8 votes
Accepted

Does bit (information) have a plural

As any other unit of measurement, bit also has its plural form - bits. 20 bits of data is received. The capacity of this medium is 200 bits. Using the singular form in both sentences would be wrong. ...
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  • 1,305
7 votes

Space before computer storage abbreviations

As a matter of modern technical writing style, 500 gigabytes can be written as 500 GB or 500GB. As a matter of grammar, fusing '500' and 'GB' into '500GB' makes as much sense to me as fusing '3' and '...
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  • 406
7 votes
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Can "zero hours contracts" be considered as not grammatical?

Reference-work discussions of phrasal adjectives of duration or amount In the larger context of how durations and amounts are usually handled in English when they take the form of compound modifiers, ...
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7 votes

What would be the metric equivalent of “inching” (or a workable alternative)?

You could use a word not connected to units of measurement, e.g., creep. From Dictionary.com: creep: to move or advance slowly or gradually: The automobile crept up the hill. Time just seems ...
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6 votes
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Are there any common phrases in the English language that use metric units of measurement?

There are a lot of expressions using second, which is metric. Of course, here the fact that the unit predates the SI system is a strong influence. Gram is beginning to replace ounce, grain and other ...
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  • 52.1k
6 votes
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What is the meaning of "sticks" as a measurement unit?

Yes, sticks refers to the stick-shaped objects and is used as a hypernym for cigarette, cigarillo and cigar for clarity. As a unit of measurement it is a bit imprecise, as not all cigars (and even ...
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  • 35.8k
6 votes
Accepted

What is the word to describe a variable whose value does not relate to any absolute unit of measure?

For the variable: dimensionless (adj.) Of a physical quantity or its unit: having no dimensions (dimension n. 3c); of the nature of a pure number or ratio, and therefore having a value independent of ...
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  • 17.3k
5 votes

What is the meaning of "40 leagues and 2"?

Yep, that’s right: the answer really is just 42. :)
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  • 127k
5 votes

Is "a half dozen" necessarily 6, or can it be 5-7?

It depends on the context. If I'm buying eggs from a supermarket then I assume they're selling an exact quantity (i.e. 6). In that context the reason for saying "a half dozen" is that eggs are ...
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  • 4,191
5 votes
Accepted

How do metric-users casually describe intermediate distances?

An interesting question that made me question my own usages (being from the UK, a supposedly metric country) and it made me realise it's not easy to answer. As I am of a certain age I will freely mix ...
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  • 11.2k
5 votes

when is it appropriate to use double prime for inches in measurements

Almost all of 800 written instances of 4 by 4 posts in Google Books will reflect OP's context. If you glance through them you'll see that although most don't have any "double primes", those that do ...
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5 votes

What would be the metric equivalent of “inching” (or a workable alternative)?

Although not a verb, nor a single word, you might consider an adverbial phrase such as millimeter by millimeter. Trying nor to scare away her dinner, the cat moved towards the mouse millimeter by ...
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