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  #1  
Old 07-06-2011, 11:59 AM
WarmNPrickly WarmNPrickly is offline
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Is heighth a word? If not, why do people say it?

Occasionally, in conversation, someone will substitute heighth for height. Is there some linguistic reason people do this, or are they just being strange? Why is this such a common affectation? Maybe it's not very common, but I've certainly heard it more than one place.
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Old 07-06-2011, 12:03 PM
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The linguistic reason is that heighth is a formation that parallels the words width and depth. The sociological reason is that we learn to speak from what we hear and when people hear a word pronounced a certain way, well, then, that's the way that word's pronounced. Linguists would say that just because most folks don't say it that way doesn't mean it's wrong. You and I might cringe when we hear it, and it may not be considered to be standard English, but it's a word, and it's in use, and people know what it means when they say it and hear it, so who are we to quibble?
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Old 07-06-2011, 12:03 PM
Giles Giles is offline
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It's by analogy with words like "breadth", "depth" and "width". In addition, back 1,000 years or so ago the word did end with "th", not "t".
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Old 07-06-2011, 12:12 PM
Exapno Mapcase Exapno Mapcase is online now
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And sometimes it's just a joke.
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Old 07-06-2011, 12:16 PM
Earl Snake-Hips Tucker Earl Snake-Hips Tucker is online now
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It appears the older pronunciations had no penultimate "t" sound before the "theta" as you would probably hear in conversation. There's some good information on this variant in the OED, but it's too long to reproduce.

Last edited by Earl Snake-Hips Tucker; 07-06-2011 at 12:16 PM..
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Old 07-06-2011, 12:23 PM
Machine Elf Machine Elf is online now
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Makes me think of acrosst and nucular.

The interesting thing about nucular, though, is that the word "nuclear" (the adjective form of nucleus) is descended from the latin "nucula," meaning nut or kernel.

So people who pronounce "nuclear" as "nucular" are actually being more faithful to its origin (though I doubt that's why any of them pronounce it that way).
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Old 07-06-2011, 02:36 PM
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When trekking in Nepal we frequently saw signs offering "Best Fooding and Lodging".
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Old 07-06-2011, 03:08 PM
Laggard Laggard is offline
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I say it sometimes without thinking. I also grew up saying "acrosst." As in, she ran acrosst the road." It may be a mid-western or Wisconsin thing.

Last edited by Laggard; 07-06-2011 at 03:09 PM..
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Old 07-06-2011, 03:21 PM
Rachellelogram Rachellelogram is offline
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When trekking in Nepal we frequently saw signs offering "Best Fooding and Lodging".
Wow, this is too adorable. I'd love to be fooded by a nice lodge.
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  #10  
Old 07-06-2011, 08:19 PM
Prelude to Fascination Prelude to Fascination is offline
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"Never say 'heighth'. Say 'length' and 'width,' but never 'heighth'. It just isn't righth."
-Leo Rosten.
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Old 07-06-2011, 09:05 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Let's get a point of terminology straight here. Of course, "heighth" is a word. It's used in conversation by many English-speaking people (and it's used to mean what the standard English word "height" means). If you use it in a high school English report, the teacher will mark it as being wrong, and if you use it in a manuscript submitted to a book or magazine publisher, the copy editor will change it to "height." That just says that it's not considered standard English. A lot of people spell it that way, and even more pronounce it that way. In fact, many people who insist that it's obviously wrong don't realize that when they're not thinking about it, they pronounce it that way too.

Language doesn't cease to be language because it's not used in the standard way, where "standard" is the way defined by high school language teachers and book and magazine copy editors. Language is anything used for ordinary communication between human beings. It may or may not be good for teachers and copy editors to enforce standards on how a language is used in certain written and spoken contexts, but they don't get to define what language is (or what a word is or what a grammatical structure is or what the pronunciation of a word is).

Last edited by Wendell Wagner; 07-06-2011 at 09:07 PM..
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Old 07-06-2011, 09:15 PM
rowrrbazzle rowrrbazzle is offline
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A recent thread: http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...d.php?t=609471

A previous thread, in which you'll find (among other things) Milton used "highth" in Paradise Lost. http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/....php?p=7941933
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  #13  
Old 07-06-2011, 09:43 PM
Tom Tildrum Tom Tildrum is online now
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It's parallel to "warmth" and "coldth."
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  #14  
Old 07-06-2011, 09:59 PM
JBDivmstr JBDivmstr is offline
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Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
It may or may not be good for teachers and copy editors to enforce standards on how a language is used in certain written and spoken contexts, but they don't get to define what language is (or what a word is or what a grammatical structure is or what the pronunciation of a word is).
I beg to differ! IMHO, teachers and copy editors (well, maybe not "copy editors", so much. ) absolutely DO, "define what language is (or what a word is or what a grammatical structure is or what the pronunciation of a word is)". We learn to speak the language by first, hearing our parents and other people speak. Teachers (especially) then try to teach us the proper (generally accepted) way to use the words, that we've learned. How could you think otherwise?
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Old 07-06-2011, 10:29 PM
J Cubed J Cubed is offline
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Originally Posted by JBDivmstr View Post
I beg to differ! IMHO, teachers and copy editors (well, maybe not "copy editors", so much. ) absolutely DO, "define what language is (or what a word is or what a grammatical structure is or what the pronunciation of a word is)". We learn to speak the language by first, hearing our parents and other people speak. Teachers (especially) then try to teach us the proper (generally accepted) way to use the words, that we've learned. How could you think otherwise?
Teachers then try to teach us the proper way to use the words and grammar of Standard written English. This is the English that one expects to see in professionally published works, almost never sees in handwritten signs, and is harangued about by doddering old fools with newspaper columns on language. However, nobody ever speaks it conversationally, which is where most language happens. If you say it and the other guy understands it, it's a word, irregardless of what your teacher says.
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Old 07-06-2011, 10:32 PM
Larry Mudd Larry Mudd is offline
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Originally Posted by Telemark View Post
When trekking in Nepal we frequently saw signs offering "Best Fooding and Lodging".
"Food to take out or sit in."
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  #17  
Old 07-06-2011, 10:53 PM
Princhester Princhester is offline
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Originally Posted by JBDivmstr View Post
Teachers (especially) then try to teach us the proper (generally accepted) way to use the words, that we've learned. How could you think otherwise?
By knowing something (very little, frankly) about etymology. The illusion of language stability is like the illusion that glaciers don't flow, and the idea that teachers and editors control language is like the idea that a few loose boulders decide the glacier's path.

If you observe language over time, grammar and word usage that is absolutely correct today may well be wrong yesterday and wrong tomorrow and vice versa. Language only appears stable because it changes too subtlely and too slowly for people who live for usualy less than a century to notice.

Teachers and stiff necked grammarians might hold things back a little, and might be able to tell you what other people currently think to be correct, but most of what they say will be swept away by the gigantic unstoppable glacier that is everyday human usage.
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Old 07-06-2011, 11:07 PM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
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For example, many people, including the poor, deluded Messrs. Strunk and White would tell you that it is A Very Bad Thing, Indeed to end a sentence with a preposition. Now, you go explain to Lady Bracknell that she should have said, "A very good age at which to be married," to Jack and tell me how far you get. The world is filled with loads of books purporting to tell you the proper way to write and speak with lots of cute stories about how Shakespeare and Milton and Dryden got it wrong. I submit to you, if a rule is so tricky that it trips up Billy himself, is it the writer or the rule that should be tossed?
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Old 07-07-2011, 03:24 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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JBDivmstr, I can only repeat what I said. Copy editors and high school English teachers do not get to define what language is. They perhaps get to define what the current version of standard written (and perhaps spoken) English is. Saying that "heighth is not a word" or that nonstandard English is not a language is just confusing the ordinary definitions of these terms. Language is anything used by human beings in ordinary communication. Nonstandard versions of languages are not merely babbling or whatever language purists think it is. (Actually, it's not clear to me what language purists think. Sometimes they act like anyone using nonstandard English (or whatever language they are trying to defend) is obviously stupid. Sometimes they act like anyone using nonstandard English is deliberately evil.)
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Old 07-07-2011, 03:31 AM
JBDivmstr JBDivmstr is offline
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Teachers then try to teach us the proper way to use the words and grammar of Standard written English.
By your statement then... Teachers DO, "define what language is (or what a word is or what a grammatical structure is or what the pronunciation of a word is)".

Quote:
However, nobody ever speaks it conversationally, which is where most language happens.
IMHO the majority of people that learned "Standard written English" as their primary language, (the language that they first learned to speak) and that are fairly "literate" (ie: high school graduate level) DO "speak it conversationally" more often than not.
I will concede that there is a tremendous influence on our every day vocabulary due to numerous reasons, such as location, and the intellect and literacy of those that we interact with, most frequently.
By the way... Great cite on "Standard written English"!

Quote:
By knowing something (very little, frankly) about etymology. The illusion of language stability is like the illusion that glaciers don't flow, and the idea that teachers and editors control language is like the idea that a few loose boulders decide the glacier's path.

If you observe language over time, grammar and word usage that is absolutely correct today may well be wrong yesterday and wrong tomorrow and vice versa. Language only appears stable because it changes too subtlely and too slowly for people who live for usualy less than a century to notice.

Teachers and stiff necked grammarians might hold things back a little, and might be able to tell you what other people currently think to be correct, but most of what they say will be swept away by the gigantic unstoppable glacier that is everyday human usage.
You seem to contradict yourself, sir. In the beginning of your post you imply with your "glacier analogy", that teachers have no control over how we speak.

And yet, you go on to state that teachers do indeed, "tell you what other people currently think to be correct".

I do not argue the fact that language does, (and will undoubtedly continue to) evolve and change over time. Consequently, the "correct" way to speak and write being currently taught in schools, will inevitably change with it. Just sayin'...
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  #21  
Old 07-07-2011, 03:40 AM
JBDivmstr JBDivmstr is offline
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Originally Posted by J Cubed View Post
Teachers then try to teach us the proper way to use the words and grammar of Standard written English. This is the English that one expects to see in professionally published works, almost never sees in handwritten signs, and is harangued about by doddering old fools with newspaper columns on language. However, nobody ever speaks it conversationally, which is where most language happens. If you say it and the other guy understands it, it's a word, irregardless of what your teacher says.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
JBDivmstr, I can only repeat what I said. Copy editors and high school English teachers do not get to define what language is. They perhaps get to define what the current version of standard written (and perhaps spoken) English is. Saying that "heighth is not a word" or that nonstandard English is not a language is just confusing the ordinary definitions of these terms. Language is anything used by human beings in ordinary communication. Nonstandard versions of languages are not merely babbling or whatever language purists think it is. (Actually, it's not clear to me what language purists think. Sometimes they act like anyone using nonstandard English (or whatever language they are trying to defend) is obviously stupid. Sometimes they act like anyone using nonstandard English is deliberately evil.)
My apologies, sir. I think I may have been a little "nit picky".
I never meant to imply that "heighth" wasn't a valid word, and I assure you, in everyday conversation, I mangle the hell out of the english language. (My high school english teachers are probably "rolling in their graves", everytime I open my mouth! )

Quote:
Sometimes they act like anyone using nonstandard English (or whatever language they are trying to defend) is obviously stupid. Sometimes they act like anyone using nonstandard English is deliberately evil.)
On this, I concur with you, 100%!
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  #22  
Old 07-07-2011, 03:52 AM
Princhester Princhester is offline
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Originally Posted by JBDivmstr;13995501You seem to contradict yourself, sir. In the beginning of your post you imply with your "glacier analogy", that teachers have [B
no control [/B]over how we speak.

And yet, you go on to state that teachers do indeed, "tell you what other people currently think to be correct".
There is no contradiction.

You choose to think I implied something I didn't. A boulder has an effect on a glacier, however small. Teachers have little control, not none. They tell you what other people currently think to be correct, but that doesn't mean they have much effective control.

People learn their language from listening and most of their listening is to parents, friends, television etc. They also learn it from what they read. Teacher contact hours and school imposed reading are but a drop in the bucket of total immersion by which people learn language.
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Old 07-07-2011, 04:05 AM
JBDivmstr JBDivmstr is offline
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Originally Posted by Princhester View Post
There is no contradiction.

You choose to think I implied something I didn't. A boulder has an effect on a glacier, however small. Teachers have little control, not none. They tell you what other people currently think to be correct, but that doesn't mean they have much effective control.

People learn their language from listening and most of their listening is to parents, friends, television etc. They also learn it from what they read. Teacher contact hours and school imposed reading are but a drop in the bucket of total immersion by which people learn language.
My apologies, sir. I forgot my manners and broke the "assume" rule.
One shouldn't assume. By "assuming", I made an "ass u me"!
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Old 07-07-2011, 11:55 PM
J Cubed J Cubed is offline
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Originally Posted by JBDivmstr View Post
IMHO the majority of people that learned "Standard written English" as their primary language, (the language that they first learned to speak) and that are fairly "literate" (ie: high school graduate level) DO "speak it conversationally" more often than not.
I will concede that there is a tremendous influence on our every day vocabulary due to numerous reasons, such as location, and the intellect and literacy of those that we interact with, most frequently.
By the way... Great cite on "Standard written English"!
The point is that nobody except actors, news anchors, and politicians ever speak Standard written English. And they only do when someone has written a script for them, in that form of English. The rest of us speak American English or British English, or other regional dialects that are spoken languages. You learn spoken English from your parents and peers. You learn written English from books and grammar teachers. But the rules and expectations are different between them.
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Old 07-08-2011, 12:04 AM
Ambivalid Ambivalid is offline
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It's parallel to "warmth" and "coldth."
Coldth? I've never heard that one before.
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Old 07-08-2011, 12:08 AM
DrDeth DrDeth is offline
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Coldth? I've never heard that one before.
I think he meant "coolth" which is becoming accepted.
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Old 07-08-2011, 12:19 AM
Ambivalid Ambivalid is offline
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The point is that nobody except actors, news anchors, and politicians ever speak Standard written English. And they only do when someone has written a script for them, in that form of English. The rest of us speak American English or British English, or other regional dialects that are spoken languages. You learn spoken English from your parents and peers. You learn written English from books and grammar teachers. But the rules and expectations are different between them.
I highly disagree with this narrow-minded assessment of language. Someone who has been highly-even moderately-educated throughout their life will develop language skills as a symbiotic combination of written language AND spoken language. They do not exist seperately, a lifelong book-reader is going to have a much more expansive vocabulary in their spoken language; as a result of high levels of written language learning. And all those "grammar teachers" will teach a person how to form this spoken language in their heads before it's spoken. Consider it the "mental written English" . To truly be able to use the language to the best of IT"S capabilities, even as it evolves as a spoken language, one must learn and know the written history of the language.

(and no, people shouldn't use that word. It's akin to say "supposably". Yeah, people say it, but so what?)

Last edited by Ambivalid; 07-08-2011 at 12:21 AM..
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  #28  
Old 07-08-2011, 01:48 AM
JBDivmstr JBDivmstr is offline
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Originally Posted by jamiemcgarry View Post
I highly disagree with this narrow-minded assessment of language. Someone who has been highly-even moderately-educated throughout their life will develop language skills as a symbiotic combination of written language AND spoken language. They do not exist seperately, a lifelong book-reader is going to have a much more expansive vocabulary in their spoken language; as a result of high levels of written language learning. And all those "grammar teachers" will teach a person how to form this spoken language in their heads before it's spoken. Consider it the "mental written English".
You've "beaten me to the punch", sir!

And IMHO, quite eloquently, at that!


(And way more succintly, than I could, or would, have been!)
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Old 07-08-2011, 07:39 AM
flight flight is offline
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Originally Posted by J Cubed View Post
If you say it and the other guy understands it, it's a word, irregardless of what your teacher says.
The point is well taken, but that was a low blow.
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  #30  
Old 07-08-2011, 08:21 AM
Inner Stickler Inner Stickler is offline
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Originally Posted by jamiemcgarry View Post
I highly disagree with this narrow-minded assessment of language. Someone who has been highly-even moderately-educated throughout their life will develop language skills as a symbiotic combination of written language AND spoken language. They do not exist seperately, a lifelong book-reader is going to have a much more expansive vocabulary in their spoken language; as a result of high levels of written language learning. And all those "grammar teachers" will teach a person how to form this spoken language in their heads before it's spoken. Consider it the "mental written English" . To truly be able to use the language to the best of IT"S capabilities, even as it evolves as a spoken language, one must learn and know the written history of the language.
Its capabilities, not it's. And I don't know that anyone would disagree with you. Of course, you don't need to be educated really at all to develop a language. Creoles are created by children who don't know the difference between an aspect and a tense yet they manage to create them just fine. You have to remember that a language need not also have a writing system to be considered a language. There are plenty of minority languages that have no standardized way of writing them down and they still function as a language. It's always a good thing to learn about things, not just your language, but remember that just because coolth isn't a word today and wasn't a word 200 years ago, doesn't mean it can't be a word next week. (And every word you use now was a nouveau addition to the language at some time.)
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Old 07-08-2011, 11:05 AM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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jamiemcgarry writes:

> To truly be able to use the language to the best of IT"S capabilities, even as it
> evolves as a spoken language, one must learn and know the written history of
> the language.

I don't know of any evidence that this is remotely true. In societies where most people were nonliterate (and sometimes where there was no written language at all), there were brilliant orators who never learned to read. They listened to other orators and learned their techniques. They didn't learn anything about the history of the language, and they didn't even read anything at all. There are lots of brilliant writers today who know almost nothing about the history of their languages, and they often have read very little older writings in their language. They simply read a lot of current writing in their language and imitated good models. Knowing the history of the language may be a good thing in itself, but it's not in general the way to learn how to write well.
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Old 07-08-2011, 11:14 AM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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I think there is a difference. An airplane can fly at a height of ten thousand feet but it doesn't have a heighth of ten thousand feet. But a building has a heighth - it spans the distance between the ground and its highest point. To me, heighth describes an object's size - the equivalent of width and length. Whereas height describes an object's location.

Last edited by Little Nemo; 07-08-2011 at 11:15 AM..
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Old 07-08-2011, 11:45 AM
Chessic Sense Chessic Sense is offline
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I think there is a difference. An airplane can fly at a height of ten thousand feet but it doesn't have a heighth of ten thousand feet. But a building has a heighth - it spans the distance between the ground and its highest point. To me, heighth describes an object's size - the equivalent of width and length. Whereas height describes an object's location.
The object's location is called altitude or elevation, not height.
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Old 07-08-2011, 01:09 PM
Ambivalid Ambivalid is offline
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Originally Posted by J Cubed View Post
Teachers then try to teach us the proper way to use the words and grammar of Standard written English. This is the English that one expects to see in professionally published works, almost never sees in handwritten signs, and is harangued about by doddering old fools with newspaper columns on language. However, nobody ever speaks it conversationally, which is where most language happens. If you say it and the other guy understands it, it's a word, irregardless of what your teacher says.
I wonder what that teacher would have to say about "irregardless" there...
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Old 07-08-2011, 01:10 PM
Little Nemo Little Nemo is offline
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The object's location is called altitude or elevation, not height.
It can be but height's a much more common term.
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  #36  
Old 07-08-2011, 02:49 PM
Rob Van Rob Van is offline
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I got into an arguement with a high school senior english teacher that I was dating. I told her there was no such word! She also didnt know what an IUD was, and that was scary because she was also a counselor for senior girls.
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Old 07-08-2011, 02:51 PM
Ambivalid Ambivalid is offline
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Originally Posted by rachelellogram View Post
Wow, this is too adorable. I'd love to be fooded by a nice lodge.
Now that just sounds down right freaky...
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