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  #1  
Old 02-16-2011, 02:13 PM
Gedd Gedd is online now
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What's the deal with "legal" size paper?

Why do they need that extra (depending on where you are) 2 - 4"? 11" isn't good enough?
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  #2  
Old 02-16-2011, 02:29 PM
robert_columbia robert_columbia is offline
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(honestly, I'm not sure)

Have you ever READ a legal document? Isn't law all about how to write long documents that make no sense?
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  #3  
Old 02-16-2011, 03:03 PM
Dewey Finn Dewey Finn is offline
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Cecil Adams' column: How did 8-1/2x11 and 8-1/2x14 become the standard paper sizes?
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  #4  
Old 02-16-2011, 03:11 PM
california jobcase california jobcase is offline
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I don't remember if it was said to be the reason for the size, but in school we were told that one hand-written legal pad sheet was a reasonable approximation of a double-spaced typed page. Seemed to work for me.
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  #5  
Old 02-16-2011, 03:40 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dewey Finn View Post
Cecil Adams' column: How did 8-1/2x11 and 8-1/2x14 become the standard paper sizes?
Cecil has a slight error in that column, although I can't shed much light on the legal size question.

Industrial cut paper sizes are more likely to be 17.5 x 22.5 inches, not 17 x 22 as Cecil says. When sheet paper is cut (as opposed to cutting from a roll), it is usually "double cut," that is, all edges are trimmed off, then the final size is cut out. While that seems like a waste, it cuts off just enough to remove damage from the most vulnerable part, the edge. Edge damage in commercial printing makes the print job look bad, and feeding paper with edge damage thru presses isn't a good idea, either.

17.5 x 22.5 becomes (4) 8.5 x 11 plus trimmings.

So large stacks of paper are shipped to the end destination, typically on pallets, then cut to size either just before printing and/or just after.

And the slivers that are trimmed off can be recycled into shredded packing material or other reuses, so it doesn't always end up in the dumpster.
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  #6  
Old 02-16-2011, 05:03 PM
TheFifthYear TheFifthYear is offline
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FWIW, I've been an attorney for about 7 years, and I've never used legal size paper for anything, nor can I recall ever receiving a document on legal size paper. Maybe it's used in other practice areas or other regions, but not mine.

I think when I bought my house there may have been a doc or two that was legal size, but that's the only time I've ever seen it used. Wonder if it's going the way of the dodo.
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  #7  
Old 02-16-2011, 05:13 PM
Ruby Ruby is offline
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We can only hope it becomes obsolete. It seems to be fairly common in my neck of the woods. I just refi'd my house and came home with an entire folder full of legal size documents. Now exactly where will I file those...?
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  #8  
Old 02-16-2011, 06:04 PM
The Second Stone The Second Stone is offline
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Originally Posted by TheFifthYear View Post
FWIW, I've been an attorney for about 7 years, and I've never used legal size paper for anything, nor can I recall ever receiving a document on legal size paper. Maybe it's used in other practice areas or other regions, but not mine.

I think when I bought my house there may have been a doc or two that was legal size, but that's the only time I've ever seen it used. Wonder if it's going the way of the dodo.
I've been a lawyer since the last millennium, and I am pleased to say that legal size is falling out of favor. I still see it used in real estate deals. I try to avoid using it whenever possible. It's inconvenient to have to have some on hand, to have some papers hanging out of the bottom of the file getting a lot more wear, etc.
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  #9  
Old 02-16-2011, 07:17 PM
Procrustus Procrustus is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheFifthYear View Post
FWIW, I've been an attorney for about 7 years, and I've never used legal size paper for anything, nor can I recall ever receiving a document on legal size paper. Maybe it's used in other practice areas or other regions, but not mine.

I think when I bought my house there may have been a doc or two that was legal size, but that's the only time I've ever seen it used. Wonder if it's going the way of the dodo.
When I started, Mid-1980s-- it was being phased out. Some courts still required/allowed it. I don't see it anywhere anymore, but imagine there could be pockets of "old school" pleadings still around.
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  #10  
Old 02-16-2011, 08:27 PM
Spavined Gelding Spavined Gelding is offline
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Legal length is pretty well a dead horse out here. The state and federal courts require letter size. The recorder of deeds discourages legal length. There might be an occasional obsolete fill-in-the-blanks legal length form floating around but that is about it.

All my 40 year old file cabinets are for legal length so I use legal size file folders -- it leaves a space at the bottom for phone numbers and the like.

You will, however, have to pry my legal length yellow pad from my cold dead hands.
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  #11  
Old 02-16-2011, 09:06 PM
Rmstrjim Rmstrjim is offline
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We use legal and ledger a fair bit at my engineering firm for printing out small runs of small sets of drawings.
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  #12  
Old 02-17-2011, 06:46 AM
racer72 racer72 is offline
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8½ by 14 is the standard at my work for printing drawings and other documents. We rarely save them though, most end up in recycling box by the end of the day.
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  #13  
Old 02-17-2011, 07:41 AM
Cluricaun Cluricaun is offline
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Originally Posted by Spavined Gelding View Post
The recorder of deeds discourages legal length.
Unless you're the Maricopa county Arizona recorder of deeds where they prefer legal sized documents be submitted for recording for some reason.

The only real estate related docs that we still produce that are always on legal sized paper are HUD1 statements, but that's just because they're just too busy and detailed to hope to be legiable on letter sized paper.
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  #14  
Old 02-17-2011, 08:10 AM
Gedd Gedd is online now
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Originally Posted by TheFifthYear View Post
I think when I bought my house there may have been a doc or two that was legal size, but that's the only time I've ever seen it used. Wonder if it's going the way of the dodo.
I saw some when we bought our place which gave me one possibility. We had to initial everything. Maybe they add some room so you aren't signing your X over something important?

My only other thought would be if they left a gap at the top. When you have a stack of papers held together at the top (not spiral bound) and are flipping through them, the farther "down" you go the harder it is to read the top of the paper. (I'm mostly thinking of medical files because my doctor's file on me is about 8 1/2" thick).

Does either sound credible?
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  #15  
Old 02-17-2011, 08:43 AM
Si Amigo Si Amigo is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TheFifthYear View Post
FWIW, I've been an attorney for about 7 years, and I've never used legal size paper for anything, nor can I recall ever receiving a document on legal size paper. Maybe it's used in other practice areas or other regions, but not mine.

I think when I bought my house there may have been a doc or two that was legal size, but that's the only time I've ever seen it used. Wonder if it's going the way of the dodo.
Yep, at my closing was the last place I actually remeber seeing it used. That and the banks papers. It's almost like they want you to feel out of place in there preseance because they require paperwork so important that it needs to be larger than life.

I use it at work sometimes to print out drawings and spreadsheets so that I can actually read those damn little cells or actually view the whole sheet on one page in a meeting. Never fails that some smartass in the group comments about the large scale printout while typing on his laptop. Usually some cocky youngun with good eyesight; if had a cane I'd smake them all.
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  #16  
Old 02-17-2011, 09:27 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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My understanding is that the extra length was originally used for notaries' seals and that kind of thing.

When I practiced law in the 1990s, we no longer produced documents on legal-sized paper, but all of our binders, files, and cabinets were still legal-sized. Every few months there was another notice about some court, agency, or other body that was discontinuing legal sizes.

Most people still used canary yellow legal-sized pads for taking notes on though.
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  #17  
Old 02-17-2011, 10:00 AM
Sailboat Sailboat is online now
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If you're using an illegal paper size, we're going to have to report you to the authorities.
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  #18  
Old 02-17-2011, 10:23 AM
Dervorin Dervorin is online now
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Come on, people! Get with the programme and use A4 like everyone else, and let's have less confusion!
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  #19  
Old 02-17-2011, 10:52 AM
Gedd Gedd is online now
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Originally Posted by Sailboat View Post
If you're using an illegal paper size, we're going to have to report you to the authorities.
Those lawyers had better be using legal pads to take your statements though.
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  #20  
Old 02-17-2011, 11:00 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Come on, people! Get with the programme and use A4 like everyone else, and let's have less confusion!
What exactly is the confusion? Do we also have to eat your favourite flavour of ice cream and wear clothes in your preferred style too?
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  #21  
Old 02-17-2011, 11:05 AM
JerseyMarine2092 JerseyMarine2092 is offline
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I want to take a second to complain about A4 sized paper. I process all the invoices at my work for payment, and every once and a while one will come in from the UK. A4 paper's dimensions are just off enough that it's not noticeable if it's by itself. But it's enough to damn my scanner.
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  #22  
Old 02-17-2011, 11:09 AM
Lare Lare is offline
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Originally Posted by Ruby View Post
We can only hope it becomes obsolete. It seems to be fairly common in my neck of the woods. I just refi'd my house and came home with an entire folder full of legal size documents. Now exactly where will I file those...?
Some of the Banker's Boxes you can get at Staples or Office Max are made to take regular size papers in one direction, but it you turn the box 90 degrees you'll find it's just right for legal papers.
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  #23  
Old 02-17-2011, 11:37 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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Originally Posted by acsenray View Post
What exactly is the confusion? Do we also have to eat your favourite flavour of ice cream and wear clothes in your preferred style too?
If my ice cream preferences and clothes styles were demonstrably more sensible, as ISO217 paper is compared to letter, you'd be a fool not to.
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  #24  
Old 02-17-2011, 11:45 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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sorry, ISO 216-218
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  #25  
Old 02-17-2011, 11:47 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Originally Posted by MrDibble View Post
If my ice cream preferences and clothes styles were demonstrably more sensible, as ISO217 paper is compared to letter, you'd be a fool not to.
More sensible? Your A4 paper is sentient? That's amazing. Ours is just pulped wood.
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  #26  
Old 02-17-2011, 11:48 AM
chappachula chappachula is offline
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Originally Posted by acsenray View Post
Most people still used canary yellow legal-sized pads for taking notes on though.
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You will, however, have to pry my legal length yellow pad from my cold dead hands.
okay, you legal-beagle snobs...riddle me this: why ,why, oh why do you have to use canary yellow? You might as well go all the way: write on paper dyed in hazmat-warning orange.

White paper is easy on the eyes. White paper works well with any color ink. White is pretty. White is respectable.

Canary yellow is for.......birds.

Last edited by chappachula; 02-17-2011 at 11:49 AM..
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  #27  
Old 02-17-2011, 11:52 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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On the contrary, I find handwritten notes on canary yellow paper much easier on the eyes than notes on stark white paper. Also, the rules blend more harmoniously on yellow. On white, the blue lines have too much contrast.
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  #28  
Old 02-17-2011, 02:22 PM
Gedd Gedd is online now
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Darn you 210 × 297mm! To quote Abe Simpson, "The metric system is the tool of the Devil!"
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  #29  
Old 02-17-2011, 02:37 PM
JoelUpchurch JoelUpchurch is offline
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I find yellow easier on the eyes also. In my youth, I would use 8.5x14 because 8.5x11 wasn't available in yellow or at least not common.

I also got in the habit of designing computer reports to format correctly at 8.25x11 so they would print correctly on 8.5x11 or A4.
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  #30  
Old 02-17-2011, 02:41 PM
Musicat Musicat is offline
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The real estate industry in Wisconsin has finally discarded all legal-size forms. That makes for more sheets of paper, but it's more manageable than mixed sizes. Some banks still use legal, and that makes it hard to file in our letter-sized cabinets and copy in our optimally letter-sized copiers. I'm glad of the trend and hope it continues to extinguish legal sized anything.
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  #31  
Old 02-17-2011, 03:20 PM
2square4u 2square4u is offline
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Originally Posted by acsenray View Post
What exactly is the confusion?
Well, AFAIK you guys are the only ones who insist on using non-ISO-standard paper sizes. OTOH, you're also about the only industrialized country which refuses to go metric, so it's somewhat fitting (although we don't really understand why you're so stubborn about conforming to the rest of the world).

One advantage with A4 is the aspect ratio. It's 1:1.4142, which means that if you double the size (to A3), it keeps the aspect ratio. Or if you cut it in two (to A5), that has the same aspect ratio too.
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  #32  
Old 02-17-2011, 03:32 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Originally Posted by 2square4u View Post
Well, AFAIK you guys are the only ones who insist on using non-ISO-standard paper sizes.
And this causes what kind of confusion? As far as I know, in the Phillipines and Singapore, they like to eat cheese-flavoured ice cream on hot dog rolls. The people in most of the rest of the world has stubbornly refused to go along with this.

Quote:
OTOH, you're also about the only industrialized country which refuses to go metric, so it's somewhat fitting (although we don't really understand why you're so stubborn about conforming to the rest of the world).
Uh ... so what? There is no why. Why do Canadians put vinegar or gravy on their french fries instead of ketchup? Why do Indians use the term "poached egg" to describe a fried egg?

Quote:
One advantage with A4 is the aspect ratio. It's 1:1.4142, which means that if you double the size (to A3), it keeps the aspect ratio. Or if you cut it in two (to A5), that has the same aspect ratio too.
Uh ... so what?
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  #33  
Old 02-17-2011, 03:34 PM
2square4u 2square4u is offline
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As far as I know, in the Phillipines and Singapore, they like to eat cheese-flavoured ice cream on hot dog rolls.
Uh ... so what?
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  #34  
Old 02-17-2011, 03:40 PM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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Uh ... so what?
Exactly. Why doesn't everyone? It's so confusing when everyone in the world doesn't want goods that meet exactly the same parameters.

Last edited by Acsenray; 02-17-2011 at 03:41 PM..
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  #35  
Old 02-18-2011, 12:54 AM
2square4u 2square4u is offline
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It's so confusing when everyone in the world doesn't want goods that meet exactly the same parameters.
You know, if you're planning to exchange goods with, uh, furriners, it's sometimes an advantage to follow some kind of standardization scheme. That's why we have international standards like metric, or all the ISO standards. It's not the same as your favorite ice cream flavor, so there's never been and will never be an ISO standard for "your favorite ice cream flavor". But sure, if import, export and exchange of stuff and ideas across borders is an alien concept, I can understand your position.

"Liters? Kilometers? No, I don't know what that stuff you're talking about is, this wagon can run 160 furloughs on a bushel of gasoline"

Last edited by 2square4u; 02-18-2011 at 12:56 AM..
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  #36  
Old 02-18-2011, 03:30 AM
bengangmo bengangmo is offline
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You know, if you're planning to exchange goods with, uh, furriners, it's sometimes an advantage to follow some kind of standardization scheme. That's why we have international standards like metric, or all the ISO standards. It's not the same as your favorite ice cream flavor, so there's never been and will never be an ISO standard for "your favorite ice cream flavor". But sure, if import, export and exchange of stuff and ideas across borders is an alien concept, I can understand your position.

"Liters? Kilometers? No, I don't know what that stuff you're talking about is, this wagon can run 160 furloughs on a bushel of gasoline"

Damn standards, when I am delivering my A4 sized paper I get 12 kilometRes to the litRe in my car.

Serioulsy though - I HATE letter sized paper, everything here is A4...which is so much friendlier.

Now if only I could teach Bill Gates to reconfigure to A4 as default all would be peachy (yeah, I know it's in the settings, and is often one of the first things I change when I get a new work station)

And since when do they eat CHEESE flavour ice-cream in Singapore? Not that I have ever heard.

Durain flavour - YES
Sweetcorn Flavour - YES (god it's gross)
Red Bean - YES (also gross)

Ice-cream on bread - YES - (decidedly tasty)

But I have never seen CHEESE flavoured icecream, and never on a hotdog bun either for that matter.
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  #37  
Old 02-18-2011, 07:36 AM
Gedd Gedd is online now
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Originally Posted by 2square4u View Post
"Liters? Kilometers? No, I don't know what that stuff you're talking about is, this wagon can run 160 furloughs on a bushel of gasoline"
In my quote above from The Simpsons he mentions his car gets "50 rods to the hogshead" which really stinks. That's about 0.0025 mpg, or .000895 kpl for you imperials.
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  #38  
Old 02-18-2011, 07:49 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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In my quote above from The Simpsons he mentions his car gets "50 rods to the hogshead" which really stinks. That's about 0.0025 mpg, or .000895 kpl for you imperials.
I thought they measured it in liters per 100 kilometers in Europe.
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  #39  
Old 02-18-2011, 10:02 AM
cmyk cmyk is online now
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We're not switching to metric, and never shall, because of our loyalty to the King of England!

Or something.

I love this map of countries who've switched to metric. The US, Liberia, Myanmar and... Antarctica... are the only ones left digging their heels.

Last edited by cmyk; 02-18-2011 at 10:04 AM..
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  #40  
Old 02-18-2011, 09:20 PM
flatlined flatlined is offline
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Originally Posted by Cluricaun View Post
Unless you're the Maricopa county Arizona recorder of deeds where they prefer legal sized documents be submitted for recording for some reason.
This strikes me as really funny. We can't even standardize in the same state. The Yavapai County Recorder prefers letter size.
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  #41  
Old 02-19-2011, 12:44 AM
t-bonham@scc.net t-bonham@scc.net is offline
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AWhy do Indians use the term "poached egg" to describe a fried egg?
So what do they call an actual poached egg?
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  #42  
Old 02-19-2011, 02:33 AM
Dervorin Dervorin is online now
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Originally Posted by acsenray View Post
What exactly is the confusion? Do we also have to eat your favourite flavour of ice cream and wear clothes in your preferred style too?
Nope; you can eat your sheep-dung ice-cream and wear neon-green mankinis until the cows come home, for all I care. With paper sizes, though, it's a nuisance to produce documents formatted for two different sizes. This becomes a particular problem in the case of documents where the pagination is fixed, such as PDFs, forcing you to scale the document when printing, and have very large margins. It's a common problem when receiving or sending documents to American clients; the printing goes all screwy on both ends. With documents that are repaginated when opened (such as Word documents) just opening the file on a different locale can completely screw up formatting, making related objects split across multiple pages and introducing blank pages because of page breaks.

Relax and ease off the coffee; it's not about the Big Global Conspiracy to Take Over Your Life, it's just much easier to work with a single paper standard when working globally. Your comparison to ice-cream and clothing is not really valid, since those don't cause problems of the same sort.

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Originally Posted by acsenray View Post
More sensible? Your A4 paper is sentient? That's amazing. Ours is just pulped wood.
Newsflash: words have multiple meanings. Look in particular at meanings 6 and 7: http://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/sensible.
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  #43  
Old 02-19-2011, 06:21 AM
Acsenray Acsenray is offline
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So what do they call an actual poached egg?
They don't call them anything. It's not commonly prepared that way.
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  #44  
Old 02-19-2011, 07:36 AM
Ken001 Ken001 is offline
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What you in the US refer to as "legal paper" is called "foolscap" in the British Commonwealth countries. I don't know about the Continent et al.

As a schoolboy in the late 1960s foolscap was the standard size of a ringbinder and the pad of paper. By the mid-70s A4 was making its mark and by 1980 was becoming standard.

I started legal practise in 1979 and don't recall a lot of foolscap documents surviving by that time. We still prepared wills on goatskin foolscap which were sewn with green tape. All court documents were folded down in thirds. Leases and title deeds were also foolscap.

The march of progress and standardisation of photocopiers, typewriters, then computer printers, faxes etc through the 1980s saw foolscap disappear.

So I was delighted on a journey to the US to discover your legal sized paper was still fighting a rear-guard action against bland modernity. All power to you.

In truth I envy American lawyers their yellow legal pads which are a delight to write on and provide that extra space often needed when making notes. It doesn't exist in New Zealand. Just bland white A4 blocks.
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  #45  
Old 02-19-2011, 07:40 AM
Ken001 Ken001 is offline
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Originally Posted by chappachula View Post
okay, you legal-beagle snobs...riddle me this: why ,why, oh why do you have to use canary yellow?

White paper is easy on the eyes. White paper works well with any color ink. White is pretty. White is respectable.
Personally I like the yellow and wish we had it here.

There is research which indicates black print on a yellow background is the easiest to read. Blue print works well on yellow too.

And no...of course I can't find a reference.
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  #46  
Old 02-19-2011, 08:56 AM
Heracles Heracles is online now
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Originally Posted by 2square4u View Post
Well, AFAIK you guys are the only ones who insist on using non-ISO-standard paper sizes. OTOH, you're also about the only industrialized country which refuses to go metric, so it's somewhat fitting (although we don't really understand why you're so stubborn about conforming to the rest of the world).
It's hard to justify the cost of the conversion. Plus, if there were a debate on this in 2011, somebody would start a political party claiming that the bible uses feet and inches and that Mr. Obama's trying to convert everybody to a Martian religion.

In Canada we use the same paper sizes as in the U.S., even though Canada adopted metric/SI around 1977.

Quote:
One advantage with A4 is the aspect ratio. It's 1:1.4142, which means that if you double the size (to A3), it keeps the aspect ratio. Or if you cut it in two (to A5), that has the same aspect ratio too.
I'm sure this gives somebody, somewhere, the impression that these paper sizes are a natural consequence of the structure of the universe...

Last edited by Heracles; 02-19-2011 at 08:58 AM.. Reason: Revised layout
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  #47  
Old 02-19-2011, 10:09 AM
matt_mcl matt_mcl is offline
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From what I can see, legal size is still standard for all purposes in the Court of Quebec.
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  #48  
Old 02-19-2011, 11:13 PM
Mister Rik Mister Rik is offline
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What you in the US refer to as "legal paper" is called "foolscap" in the British Commonwealth countries.
Hey, thanks for that! I've read the term "foolscap" several times when reading British authors, and via context I've always known it meant paper, but I mistakenly assumed it referred to a variety of paper, i.e. vellum, parchment, foolscap, etc. I didn't realize it was the word for a specific size of the paper.

A4 ... I like it. I ended up needing to buy it when I was playing Dungeons & Dragons and I found some custom-designed character sheets that were far superior to the default character sheet that comes in the back of the D&D Player's Handbook. These custom sheets were designed by a guy in England, and were formatted for A4 paper. I had discovered that if I scaled them down to fit an 8.5" x 11" sheet, the type became uncomfortably small, and printing them on legal-sized paper just wasted a lot of space (and the paper hung out of my 3-ring binder). So I ordered a ream of A4 from a place I found online. I found the dimensions aesthetically pleasing.
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Old 02-20-2011, 03:49 AM
krunen krunen is online now
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I'm sure this gives somebody, somewhere, the impression that these paper sizes are a natural consequence of the structure of the universe...
Well, the aspect ratio is the square root of 2...
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Old 02-20-2011, 11:34 AM
MrDibble MrDibble is offline
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Originally Posted by Mister Rik View Post
I found the dimensions aesthetically pleasing.
Well, of course you did...
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