Monday, August 2, 2010

Words I'm Looking Up (One in an occasional, cleverly named series on words I'm looking up)


I know what bade means. It's the past tense of bid. Today I bid you farewell. Yesterday I bade you farewell.

That's not why I was looking it up. I looked it up because I wanted an official ruling on how to pronounce it.

On the rare occasions when I hear people use this word, they always pronounce it "bad." Seemed like a bad call to me. If they would pronounce it as ryhming with "made," there would be less chance of confusion. After all, "bad" is a very common word but "bayed" is pretty rare (despite the sudden emergence of werewolf chic).

So, at long (long, long) last, I looked it up.

"Bad" news. I was wrong. and Webster's New World College both said it's pronounced "bad," not "bayed."

Makes me wanna howl.

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kidicarus222 said...

And with "forbade" as well. How surprising. I feel like I've heard many smart people pronounce "forbade" many times and have never heard it sound like "forbad."

June Casagrande said...

I didn't even think about forbade! Isn't there someone we can petition about this? Why can't people just do things the way I want them to?

Mallory said...

shut the front door! i've always pronounced it "bayed" as well. I am a shamed proofreader.

June Casagrande said...

I betcha anything that a year from now I'll be pronouncing it "bayed" again. If only the dictionary-makers would listen to us!

Linnee said...

Darn! I'm still not over long-lived/long-lye'ved.

June Casagrande said...

"Lye-ved"? I love that.

Kinda like: You can "led" a horse to water.

LL Blackwell said...

This is horrible! Here's part of the problem with things like this: you can, with your new-found knowledge, begin pronouncing the word correctly, but then no one will know what you're talking about!

I was always amused by Madeline L'engle slipping the proper pronunciation of "sadist" into "A Wrinkle in Time" (with a character who describes himself as the "happiest sadist") although says sad-ist or sade-ist is acceptable.

June Casagrande said...

I haven't thought about "A Wrinkle in Time" for years. I don't remember that line, but it's awesome.

AdamH said... lists both ways, with a short a and a long a, as pronunciations. I'd trust them more than others.

June Casagrande said...

Very interesting! But I actually trust M-W less than Webster's New World and American Heritage. (Perhaps not on this matter, but in general.)

Adrian Morgan said...

Sometimes it's nice not to have to care how Americans pronounce stuff. UK-based dictionaries (e.g. online Oxford) list "bayed" pronunciation first.

Commenting on the comments, I passionately detest "A Wrinkle In Time". Evil book. Yuck. No doubt this reaction is connected to the fact that we had to study it in Year Eight at school.

June Casagrande said...

Interesting! I don't remember A Wrinkle in Time well enough to detest it. All I remember is the teachers telling us how profound the idea of a Mobius strip was while I kept thinking something was wrong with me because the "Is it two dimensional or is it one dimensional" dilemma didn't seem like a real dilemma to me.

Other students acted like it was all profound, which the teachers (there was more than one, for some reason) lapped up.

Adrian Morgan said...

I don't necessarily remember it either. I just detest it. Interesting that it was used in class at your school too.

Moebius strips are cool, but have nothing much to do with dimensions. I first learned about them from the Childcraft series (published by World Book) when I was about eight years old.

There's plenty of cool stuff that does have to do with dimensions. I recently posted an image on my blog that has 1.77124374916 dimensions, and it's not all that hard to explain why.

June Casagrande said...

Whoa. I give up. How does it have that many dimensions and (more important) how is that not too hard to explain?

Adrian Morgan said...

Fractal dimensions ... fun stuff.

So, to start with, here's one way to think about what it means to have TWO dimensions. Imagine a square, and then imagine you make that square bigger until it is twice as wide as it was. OK? Well, being twice as wide, the square is now four times as big - that is to say, you could fit four of the original squares inside it.

So, twice as wide, four times as big. And that works with anything that has two dimensions.

Whereas if you take a cube and make it bigger until it is twice as wide as it was, it ends up eight times as big altogether. So, twice as wide, eight times as big. And that works with anything that has three dimensions.

Alright, now how many dimensions does this have?

You can see that the shape is made out of seven little shapes all the same (one in the middle and six around the edge), and that the constituent shapes are exactly like the big shape only smaller. So the big shape must be seven times bigger than each of the seven constituent shapes inside it.

But you can also see that the big shape is three times as wide as the little shapes. Which means that if you take one of the little shapes, and make it three times as wide as it was, it turns out exactly the same as the big shape - seven times as big.

So, three times as wide, seven times as big. And that's just weird, because any normal shape with two dimensions would end up nine times as big!

To summarise, if you make it three times wider than it was, a one-dimensional shape gets three times as big, a two-dimensional shape gets nine times as big, and yet the shape we're looking at gets seven times as big. So that suggests it has one and a bit dimensions.

If you want the actual maths, it's not very hard. Basically, [how much wider you make it] to the power of [the number of dimensions] equals [how much bigger it gets]. So in this case, the question is "three to the power of WHAT equals seven?", and the answer is "about 1.77124374916". If you know how to use logarithms, you can figure this stuff out.

June Casagrande said...

I believe you ... but you failed to demonstrate it. Your argument is predicated on the assertion that X "works with anything that has two dimensions" and Y "works with anything that has three dimensions."

So the logic is like saying X is required for flight, bumblebees lack X, therefore bumblebees can't fly.

I betcha that if I did "know how to use logarithms," I'd be better able to accept that this image in fact HAS 1.77124374916 dimensions, but all that's been proven to me at this point is that it HAS PROPERTIES of something that has 1.77124374916 dimensions (and only if we accept those basic premises I question above.)

Unfortunately, I don't know how to use logarithms. (I dropped out of high school after the eighth grade and my resulting lack of familiarity with math and science inspired some chickenshit academic decisions when I got to college -- i.e. feeling alienated from math and science courses. So I tend to feel insurmountably disadvantaged with stuff like this.)

Anyway, when I can set aside those myriad issues, I can concede that the image really is pretty cool.

LL Blackwell said...

1) Okay, this is going waaaay back in the comments, but ACK! You are making me a paranoid English teacher by remembering the only thing about a book was that you detested it! What if *I* am doing that to my students?!?

and 2) Yow, that is some crazy math-y stuff, and June may feel inadequate in math, but she definitely has it in logic!

Adrian Morgan said...

You didn't ask me to demonstrate it. You asked me to explain it. :-)

Actually, it kind of works the other way round to what you suggest. Once you've proven that any normal shape with two or three dimensions works the way I said (which you can), you can redefine the word "dimension" so that it works for any shape at all. Then you don't have to prove that it works for any shape, because you've now defined "dimension" so that it must. You just have to prove that it gives the same answer for all normal shapes as other definitions do, which it does.

That's basically what mathematicians did. They do that a lot, redefining words in ways that are consistent with previous definitions but which give answers where previous definitions did not. Dimensions defined this way were originally called "Hausdorff-Benicovitch dimensions" (later renamed "fractal dimensions", after the word "fractal" was invented) to distinguish them from dimensions defined the old-fashioned way (which is basically the number of coordinates you need to specify an arbitrary point).

Why it's useful to define dimensions that way is a whole other discussion.

My final paragraph was somewhat parenthetical. The actual maths is not so important as the general principle. That the shape has 1.77124374916 dimensions is not so important as the idea that it has one and a bit.

June Casagrande said...

All right, that is SO interesting. And it makes me wonder whether somewhere in mathematicians' wordplay lies an explanation for the theory I hear is going around these days that says that, supposedly, you can be dead in one (Dimension? Plane? Now I forget which word they used) and alive in another at the same time.

(And, yes, I got that 1.7 what wasn't the point, which was really, "One point seven something? What?!?"

Thanks for taking the time to explain that to me!

June Casagrande said...

Lisa: The flip side of what I said about "Wrinkle in Time" is that I felt like the oddball for not being really into it. I definitely remember a lot of students loving it and the discusson of it.

And thanks for the props about my logic abilities. Makes me feel better!

(By the way, sorry these replies are out of order. I always goof that up.)

Adrian Morgan said...


One thing I remember specifically is thinking that "Mrs Which", "Mrs Whatsit", etc were really stupid names. (I'm a dedicated Dr. Who fan, but that's different: it's not actually his name.) Also, I seem to recall that a lot of philosophy in the book was built on lots of assumptions, yet presented as inevitable (e.g. life changes, God is alive, therefore God changes).

I didn't hate all of the books we had to study at school, but I guess that because I read a lot of science fiction, I naturally compared "A Wrinkle In Time" with other books I knew, and it came out wanting. Whereas when we studied books from genres I wouldn't normally read, I didn't have so much to compare them with, so I liked them more. Maybe. This might be a somewhat comforting explanation for you, anyway.


Nah, that sounds like physics rather than mathematics to me. Physicists don't get to redefine stuff all the time, because the whole point is to describe what's really out there. The idea that there are different realities/universes each with its own copy of you is either true or it isn't. There are reasons for thinking that it might be, but it's only a suggestion. It's kind of hard to check.

June Casagrande said...

So sorry it took so long to get your comment up. The people I work for are making me work (the monsters).

Re the cosmic issue: I thought that when they start gettin' all quantum and stuff that the two disciplines sort of work together. And remember: I got an A in college algebra! (That's right, algebra.)

Adrian Morgan said...

I'd probably need more information before I could help you any further. It's not clear to me where you're coming from, what questions you have about multiple realities, etc.

I was generalising when I said physicists/scientists don't get to redefine stuff, of course (see "planet", for example), but when they do it's under very different circumstances: usually forced upon them by nature. Maybe I should have said it less sweepingly, but it's true in the sense I was thinking of at the time. Science and mathematics have different perspectives on what definitions are for, so that "X is true because the definition says so" is good mathematics but not good science.

June Casagrande said...

I got that! Everybody fudges. : )

June Casagrande said...

8'FED: Just read your Twitter link on Americans and algebra.

That's sad. (If you see a simlar article about how Americans don't know how to hyperlink in blog comments, well, that would break my heart, too.)

Seriously, though, I think some people here get a good education, but so many don't.

Adrian Morgan said...

If only you always uploaded blog comments at this time of day, I would see them before I went to bed. :-)

I'm sure you understand my motivation for the definitions postscript - that guilty urge to make amends when you read something you wrote and think, "That doesn't really say what I meant."

Re: algebra, fortunately or unfortunately I don't have any Australian statistics to compare.

June Casagrande said...

I can totally relate to the postscript impulse! I'm downright paranoid that something I say will come off as an absolute when I meant it more loosely.

Sleep well!


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