1. Quantitative comparisons

I have noticed what seems to me, some odd usage of quantitative comparisons. I would welcome opinions.

Phrases including a multiplication factor with a diminutive quantity and comparing only two objects are bugging me. Example:

A tennis ball is five times smaller than a soccer ball.

It seems counter intuitive and completely illogical to use an expansive (five times) adverb with a shrinking (smaller) adjective. It also seems to impute a certain automatically perceived "smallness" to the soccer ball when there is no additional range of reference to make this conclusion.

Another example:

The drive from San Diego to Los Angeles is four times closer than to San Francisco. (guesstimating )

Thoughts?

2. Re: Quantitative comparisons

The second is definitely a bit odd. These are common enough usages, though. There is often uncertainty when people make such comparisons. There are ways around this, like using a fifth, but these things are likely to bug for for some time. Another one to add to the list is the comparison to football (soccer) pitches, which are not of a standard size- they can vary within certain limits.

3. Re: Quantitative comparisons

NOT A TEACHER

Originally Posted by Languagehound
A tennis ball is five times smaller than a soccer ball.

It seems counter intuitive and completely illogical to use an expansive (five times) adverb with a shrinking (smaller) adjective. It also seems to impute a certain automatically perceived "smallness" to the soccer ball when there is no additional range of reference to make this conclusion.
I don't see the problem. You could say, 'five times smaller', or, '1/5 times larger'. Both mean the same. While it is not stated how large the soccer ball is, we can assume that they mean an average sized soccer ball. In fact, I assume that soccer balls have a standard size.

4. Re: Quantitative comparisons

Originally Posted by Tdol
The second is definitely a bit odd. These are common enough usages, though. There is often uncertainty when people make such comparisons. There are ways around this, like using a fifth, but these things are likely to bug for for some time. Another one to add to the list is the comparison to football (soccer) pitches, which are not of a standard size- they can vary within certain limits.
Interesting. American football fields are all the same size, so it is a standard, if informal, unit of measure.

5. Re: Quantitative comparisons

It's widely used where the football measure is not American.

6. Re: Quantitative comparisons

After looking up sizes of "standard" tennis and soccer balls it turns out an international standard size 5 soccer ball is just shy of three times that of than a standard tennis ball. So let's apply some arithmetic using a modified statement:

A tennis ball is three times smaller than a soccer ball.

If a tennis ball is 6.5cm in diameter then the statement would suggest it is 19.5cm (3x) smaller than a soccer ball making the soccer ball 26cm in diameter (6.5cm + 19.5cm) when in reality is is only about 22cm.

Applying the second condition of '1/3 times larger' the soccer ball would then be around only 8.6cm (6.5cm + 1/3 of 6.5cm) so these are definitely not interchangeable.

Despite the exactness of the mathematics or the common usage, it is yet another example of continued language degradation.

I'll stick with the standard three times larger or two-thirds smaller.

7. Re: Quantitative comparisons

Originally Posted by Languagehound
Despite the exactness of the mathematics or the common usage, it is yet another example of continued language degradation.

Have you any evidence that people were ever more precise in everyday language?

If a tennis ball has a diameter of 6.5 cm, and a football a diammeter of 19.5 cm, most of us will say, "The football is three times as big as the tennis ball" or "The football is three times the size of the tennis ball". A minority would say one of the following, as they probably always have done.

The football is three times bigger than the tennis ball.
The football is 200% begger than the tennis ball.
The football is 300% bigger than the tennis ball.
The tennis ball is three times as small as the football
The tennis ball is three times smaller than the football.
The tennis ball is one third the size of the football.
The tennis ball is 300% smaller than the football.

etc.

Some of these are clearly wrong, but some people will say them. Some people are just not very good with numbers.

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