January 21, 2004

Names and descriptions

Barbara Scholz and I are travelling to UC San Diego tomorrow to give a seminar on the problem of explaining first language acquisition at the Center for Human Development. We need a rental car, so I just looked up a few prices on the web via Travelocity. Ten proposals with prices came up. The lowest price on the list was $27 (not that Travelocity would let me actually book it: they insisted on knowing the name of the airline we're flying in on, and you had to pick it off their popup list, but Southwest Airlines wasn't on their list, so the transaction was impossible to complete; but don't get me started on the subject of crappy web interfaces that prevent business from being done).

However, my eye was attracted to the other end, where one company was quoting $99.89 for exactly the same rental period and size of car. With $11.24 in taxes and fees, that's $111.13 for an economy car for one 24-hour rental period. The name of that company was Payless.

So that, in case you needed a really clear example, is the difference between a name and a description.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at January 21, 2004 05:43 PM