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Thread: kilometer

  1. #1
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    Default kilometer

    Hi people.

    I pronounce this word /kilometer/. /Kilometer/ is one of my pet hates.

    Can anyone who uses the latter pronunciation give a good reason for it?
    It seems to be the only distance words in the metric system that places the emphasis there.
    "nanometer, micrometer, millimeter, centimeter, decameter, etc."

    (I'm ignoring the 're'/'er' spellings)

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    Default Re: kilometer

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Hi people.

    I pronounce this word /kilometer/. /Kilometer/ is one of my pet hates.

    Can anyone who uses the latter pronunciation give a good reason for it?
    It seems to be the only distance words in the metric system that places the emphasis there.
    "nanometer, micrometer, millimeter, centimeter, decameter, etc."

    (I'm ignoring the 're'/'er' spellings)
    It's possibly because, in the good old imperial days, this was the only metric measurement term known to us. We encountered it only in the written form, and assumed it was like: gasometer, barometer, thermometer speedometer, etc.

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    Default Re: kilometer

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    It's possibly because, in the good old imperial days, this was the only metric measurement term known to us. We encountered it only in the written form, and assumed it was like: gasometer, barometer, thermometer speedometer, etc.
    Ah, but that's the fallacy.
    All of those -ometer words are machines that measure things. A kilometer does not measure anything.
    Sure, you can add manometer, sphygomanometer, odometer, tachometer, glucometer, micrometer ...

    But, note this. "Micrometer" appears in both lists. When it's a measure of distance (ie. a micron, 10^-6 meters), it's a micrometer. When it's a caliper-like instrument that measures distance, it's a micrometer.
    You measure micrometers with a micrometer.

    If there are any scientists out there, do you say nanometer, or picometer for those small distances? I'd guess not, because it's in the distance category - not the machine category. That makes it nanometer and picometer.
    So, if anything an odometer could be called a kilometer because it measures kilometers.

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    Default Re: kilometer

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    Ah, but that's the fallacy.
    All of those -ometer words are machines that measure things.
    I realise that it's illogical. I just think it is what possibly happened. Some of my generation (old) had met kilometer in print and took a stab at it using the only other -ometer words we knew. It was only when some of us started physics at the age of 13 or so that we encountered the other metric terms. By that time the kilometer was firmly entrenched in our brains. And, while we used millimetres, centimetres and metres in our school physics, we didn't use kilometers a lot, so nothing would shift us.

  5. #5
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    Default Re: kilometer

    Although I don’t pronounce kilometer the evil, despicable way, it is an interesting question. I had never thought about any justification for my pronunciation other than it feeling natural to me, and it being easily understood by the person or people I am speaking with.

    So perhaps all the justification we need is that people will understand if we pronounce it that way. In fact, it may be clearer to use the pronunciation that others do, so we should change our pronunciation depending on who we are talking to. When in America, do as the Yanks do.

    Ah, but that's the fallacy.


    Have you ever heard anyone actually assert that they are being consistent with “barometer” and “thermometer”? Does something have to be stated to be a fallacy? I guess not.

    Anyway, Gough Whitlam had a more academic justification. He said that because “kilo” and “metre” are of Greek origin, we should pronounce it the way the ancient Greeks would, with stress on the antepenultimate syllable. I like to think he was just having a joke with that argument and trying to piss off all the schoolmarms and language mavens. Who knows with old Gough, though.

    Hey, I just noticed you wrote "kilometer" not "kilometre".

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    Default Re: kilometer

    Quote Originally Posted by Munch View Post

    Hey, I just noticed you wrote "kilometer" not "kilometre".
    Although as a true Brit I'm a centre and theatre man, I go for -er when spelling out the metric words. This could be because I first started using them regularly when I spent several years in Germany and absorbed the German spelling. Britain was still completely imperial in those days. Yes, I know that Germans would write Theater but, because of the German pronunciation of that word, I regarded it as a German word, and the spelling did not affect my English equivalent. Kilometer, however, was an international word.

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    Default Re: kilometer

    Quote Originally Posted by Munch View Post
    Ah, but that's the fallacy.
    Have you ever heard anyone actually assert that they are being consistent with “barometer” and “thermometer”? Does something have to be stated to be a fallacy? I guess not.

    fivejedjon " ... assumed it was like: gasometer, barometer, thermometer speedometer, etc."

    fivejedjon did say it, and made that inference, so yes, I think that's a valid fallacy. If you say, "I do A because it's like B", and A turns out not really to be like B, then you're doing it for a fallacious reason - or at least, it's a fallacy that A is like B. The reasoning is fallacious.

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    Default Re: kilometer

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    fivejedjon " ... assumed it was like: gasometer, barometer, thermometer speedometer, etc."

    fivejedjon did say it, and made that inference, so yes, I think that's a valid fallacy. If you say, "I do A because it's like B", and A turns out not really to be like B, then you're doing it for a fallacious reason - or at least, it's a fallacy that A is like B. The reasoning is fallacious.
    I meant to say, does anyone actually make that argument? Most people don't think about it to that extent. Of those who do, I would guess they would realise that argument is fallacious, as you said.

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    Default Re: kilometer

    Quote Originally Posted by Munch View Post
    I meant to say, does anyone actually make that argument? Most people don't think about it to that extent. Of those who do, I would guess they would realise that argument is fallacious, as you said.
    Yes, I believe they do. fivejedjon did, for one.
    fivejedjon wrote: "We encountered it only in the written form, and assumed it was like: gasometer, barometer, thermometer speedometer, etc." That is, they assumed it belonged to a particular category of words, and it didn't.
    Now, I'm giving fivejedjon the benefit of the doubt. If what he said is true, they (the people referred to by fivejedjon as "We") were committing a fallacy. You probably should ask fivejedjon whether he's sure of his facts.
    Nevertheless, even if nobody ever did make that argument, the argument would still be fallacious.
    Moreover, even if people who did make that argument recognised it as a fallacy when it was explained to them, the argument would still remain a fallacy.
    Those who say kilometer, without doing so because they believe it's a "thermometer-type" word are not committing the fallacy that we're talking about; but that doesn't preclude them from being wrong for a different reason. People mispronounce words for all sorts of reasons. Invalid word associations and fallacious reasoning is only one (or two).
    Have I addressed your point?

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    Default Re: kilometer

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    You probably should ask fivejedjon whether he's sure of his facts.
    I am not sure of my facts. I said," I just think it is what possibly happened." (Underlinings added now.)

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