Monday, January 22, 2007

What To Do When The English Language Has Some Seemingly Unsolvable Problems

I was reading about an online magazine, when I came across a statement " published bimonthly...". I got confused - because I knew that bimonthly means two things - "twice a month" and "once every two months". How is a reader expected to guess, which particular meaning of bimonthly is being used (especially when both the meanings are equally probably in this situation).

It is fair to say that the use of this word will almost always create confusion, and so a standard rule needs to be created to resolve this issue. One solution is to always specify the intended meaning in braces

For example

...bimonthly (once every 2 months)...


...bimonthly (twice every month)...

That is, if instead of simply writing bimonthly, we always start writing bimonthly (once every 2 months) OR bimonthly (twice every month), then there shall be no confusion. Of course, one could then argue that why use the word at all? Why not just write once every 2 months OR twice every month. This is a reasonable and sensible argument.

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