How many is most?

Following on (finally) from the previous maths-related post, I saw this in an Edexcel maths exam paper:

May 2013 002

Question (a) is “How did most of the students travel to school?” My answer was “by vehicle”, since car+cycle+bus = 55%. But the maths teacher told me the correct answer is “walk” since it’s the largest piece of pie. Apparently, maths teachers speak a different language from the rest of us.


Facebook ambiguity

At the bottom of your Facebook timeline it says “See more recent stories.” Really, they ought to remove the word “recent” since as it is it appears to mean something that isn’t true. If you click, you don’t see stories that are more recent, you see further back in the timeline.

fab recent

You know what I mean…

A recent article begins: “Those less intimate with Hungarian political culture should be aware of the significance of March 15th and October 23rd.” Now, although I think we all realise what the author means, she is in fact saying the opposite. This is a kind of rhetorical ellipsis, I suppose, for “should be made aware” or “should make themselves aware”. In speaking, one can get away with infelicities like this, but when you see it written down it jumps out at you. Unless you’re the author or editor, of course.

Apostrophe ambiguity

On Twitter this morning, Crispian Jago wrote: “Just listened to Dawkins talk at the NSS conference.” My reaction to this was that I didn’t know there was an NSS conference today. It took a few moments to realise that Crispian hadn’t been listening to Dawkins speak, he’d been listening to (a recording of) Dawkins’ speech.

It doesn’t bother me much when people leave possessive apostrophes out, and I ignore the Trussists who claim that every error leads to ambiguity, but this was a case where the missing apostrophe did make a difference.

Uh oh!

I just noticed someone wrote “Ut oh” and it took me a moment or two to figure out why. Loads of people don’t pronounce their t’s; they replace them with a glottal stop, e.g bo!ul instead of bottle. But they know the words still have a T in them when you write them down. So when they come to write “uh oh” down, they assume they need to write a T where the glottal stop is. Interesting.*