Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Quantify vs. Qualify

One of my earliest memories is the following conversation with my mother:

Momz: ...and there were several things I just loved.

Deb: Mama, how many is 'several?'

Momz: I don't know, it's not a lot, but more than a few.

Deb: But how many is it?

Momz: One, two, three... several!

Deb: So 'several' is four?

Momz: Not exactly.

Deb: Then how many?

Momz: Four.

Based on this conversation, I began to define my idea of those words we use to indicate vague quantities:

One: one.

A couple: two.

A few: three

Several: four or five

A bunch: six to eight

Lots of: nine to twelve

Bunches: more than twelve.

A whole mess of/Scads/Oodles: At least twenty.

Now, I understand that not everyone has this crazy (but adorable) need to make sure that vague notions of quantity are less vague, but that's me.  It's my freak flag, and I fly it.

So the other night, Sven assures me that he brought up "a bunch of" Pull-Ups from our downstairs cache of Pull-Ups.  So I go in, confident that there are AT LEAST SIX TO EIGHT Pull-Ups on Dexy's changing table.  How many are there?

Three.

Apparently, to my husband, three is "a bunch."  I cannot believe that, in my quest to achieve perfect compatibility, I overlooked defining vague quantities in the same way.  Inexcusable.  But it's never too late to start.  The following is addressed, lovingly, to Sven:

THREE IS NOT A BUNCH!  WOULD YOU BUY A "BUNCH" OF BANANAS THAT ONLY HAD THREE?  MAYBE, BUT THAT'S IRRELEVANT!  IT WOULD BE AN AWFULLY PUNY "BUNCH," WOULDN'T IT?  THREE IS "A FEW" AND DON'T FORGET IT!

Now, it's time for me to get ready for work.  I have a bunch of stuff to do today.

4 comments:

Kristina P. said...

You make me snort. I always thought that "few" and "several" were both three.

Barbaloot said...

A bunch is definitely more than three. I've always thought a couple was 2, a few was 3 or 4...several, lots a bunch all mean something at least more than 6.

G702aynelleKress0 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I'm sure this was just for humor, and it's very old as I just found this while Googling something else, but the stickler in me can't let it go:

A "bunch" of bananas is a descriptor for two or more bananas still connected together. In this case "bunch" is not specifically quantifying the number of bananas, it's simply a collective noun describing that there are a minimum of two bananas still connected together. It's the same concept as a "herd" of horses or a "gaggle" of geese or a "murder" of crows.

A "couple" of things is exactly two. A "few" is typically two or three of something, with a little leeway up the scale. "Several" is typically three or more, but still invariably single digits.