Sunday, March 19, 2006

Sunday, Sunday

Thanks to a persistent cough (I blogged about it last week), I've decided to skip out on meditation in the zendo this week in favor of going it alone. Today's agenda includes:

1. a visit to a local museum where a student works; she's planning to show me around the place

2. finishing up the lesson planning I started on Saturday

3. zazen on my own, possibly outside because it's a nice day and my cough is less likely to disturb both myself and others

4. a possible Namsan hike, since I didn't go yesterday

5. laundry

6. finalizing the new Golgotha image (the strip isn't dead; it's only sleeping)

That ought to be enough for one man for one day.

Meditate on this:

The words "less" and "fewer" are generally associated with uncountable and countable nouns, respectively. Less sugar; fewer calories.

But if I write the sentence, "Give your answer in 500 words or...", do I write "less" or "fewer"?

I've never been absolutely consistent on this point, but I lean toward "less." Why? Because there are plenty of instances in English where countable nouns are reckoned in "chunks" and thus as uncountable nouns.


Five hours is a long time to have sex.

In the above example, the phrase "five hours" is being treated as a single, determinate block of time. Each individual hour is not being considered a separate entity. Note, too, that the above construction violates another "rule" of grammar: the verb should agree with its subject. "Hours" is plural, yet the third-person singular form of "to be" is in evidence. This is why my students think English is a crazy language.

And now, distance:

Ten miles is too short for a marathon.

Same deal as above, as I think you'll see.

Given all that, I think that "500 words or less" is quite apropos.

(I think I wrote "fewer" in a comment on Rory's blog, for which I am eternally ashamed.)


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