October 25, 2006

And next, facial poo

Or maybe hand poo. In either case, hand milled, of course. Via Darth Spacey, my new favorite example of back-formation:

Meanwhile, in the opposite direction, Miles L writes to observe that

A few weeks ago I caught myself saying "he got an ahundred on the test." It *sounded* perfectly fine at the time (and still does), but obviously it's not standard English. Today I heard a friend use the same phrase "got an ahundred," which for me promoted this personal observation into a phenomenon. I know there are previous examples of the indefinite article mixing with the noun, but I haven't seen this one documented anywhere.

Me either, but I agree with the intuition. I think I've also heard things like "it was an ahundred-degree day", or "I've got an ahundred-dollar bill says you're wrong."

I guess this has to do with the fact that you can count "..., ninety eight, ninety nine, a hundred, a hundred one, ..." so that "a hundred" can be interpreted by the "look-it-up" part of the brain as just another number.

But how to spell it? Miles' solution looks wrong, but "he got an a hundred" looks wronger. Well, just as wrong, anyhow.

Posted by Mark Liberman at October 25, 2006 06:00 AM