Interpretation of a common phrase.

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Interpretation of a common phrase.

Post by Archived Topic » Sun Dec 30, 2001 5:49 pm

Can any one tell me with some authority that if in a document I say of water seepage: (SUMP) PUMPS HANDLES IT.
Meaning that provided the pumps are not plugged, burned out or without hydro power they will remove the water. Not stating in writing or verbally that they will instantly handle every water flow the future might bring. Can the other party claim that the words `handles it` in themselves implies a promise that the water flow even if from the flood of a century must be removed with same speed as seepage from light or , heavy or average rainfall. Did my use of the words (Handles it)
Imply under all condition. In my use of UK and Canadian language I used those words in the broad sense that it handles it without reference to time or specified uknown volume. This enquirey may cause some amusement and no response, but I can find no common and authoritive reference to the meaning of the phrase `handles it`. Although I have used it for 60 years and though I knew its meaning and usage I could be wrong. I hope not of course. At least asking members lets out some of my frustration. Bill
Submitted by Bill Waterhouse (Nanaimo - Canada)
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Interpretation of a common phrase.

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Dec 30, 2001 6:03 pm

Bill, I don’t believe that HANDLE used in this way is a legal term nor that your statement holds water (:>). But I’ll give you my take from my experience in the area of engineering and science requirement.

The term ‘handle,’ such as how much current can a circuit handle, or how much of a load can a support handle, what kind of temperature variations can the system handle, what kind of pressures can a chamber handle, usually means worst case. ‘Handle’ doesn’t generally apply to average conditions but to the extremes. So the argument usually boils down to what is a ‘reasonable’ worst case condition? Well, if my families life depends on it or the lives of the astronauts on the space shuttle depend on it, you want pretty stringent requirements. But cost always creeps into the mix, so that often the final result is a compromise between extreme caution and money. I’m not sure if the bridges in my area are designed to handle a 50 year flood, or the 100 year flood, but I hope its better than 25 year flood. In any case ‘handle’ to me means ‘really handle,’ and that means we’re not talking about run-of-the-mill-conditions, but extreme ones, worst-case, or a hefty percentage of worst-case.

A compromise we made on the first space station, for example, was to design to what was called 90%-worst-case conditions for cosmic rays. That is, we had to design the electronics to be able to survive and function, not in the absolute worst-case conditions imaginable (found by studying the records of solar storms, etc. as far back as we had records), but to 90% of worst case – the 90% being the compromise. Perhaps if we only had robots on board, such as in the recent Mars missions, the design could have been relaxed to handle less stringent conditions – perhaps 60% worst case, for example.

Now, as far as your pump having to handle the flood of the century, that’s debatable. It seems to me the issue here would boil down to what you are selling and how you advertise it. If you are selling pumps usually you specify how many gallons/sec they can handle at maximum capacity and there wouldn’t normally be any guarantees about the size of floods they’re matched up against. On the other hand if you are selling a system that you advertise can ‘handle it’ or do the job, that would very much depend on what ‘handle it’ means. And if nothing specific is said, I would personally assume that it could handle worst-case conditions or a sizable fraction of it.

If it were me, I’d get a little more specific in the sale and say this pump will do the job under average conditions, but if you want one that can work in a 50-year flood, you’ll need a bigger pump that costs D more dollars, and if you want one that can work in a 100-year flood, that will be 2D more dollars. . . To say that the ‘pumps handle it’ is a vague statement open to different interpretations and sounds to me like a lawyer’s field day waiting to happen.

Last winter in my town we had a rash of commercial building roof collapses after a wet spring snow. There was a design specification of how many inches of wet snow a roof was supposed to handle. And it was a big insurance deal whether the actual snowfall did or did not exceed that number. A builder can’t just say ‘trust me, your roof will handle it.’ They were required in their contract to specify precisely what ‘handle it’ meant. Similarly in your case, saying ‘it can handle it’ seems to me to be so legally imprecise as to be useless. I say it means worst-case, you say average, and my bet a lawyer would say ‘oh boy!’ (<:)
_______________

Ken G – April 13

Reply from Ken Greenwald (Fort Collins, CO - U.S.A.)
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Interpretation of a common phrase.

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Dec 30, 2001 6:17 pm

Bill, Ken's account seems a pretty fair summary of the issue. You don't state the precise context of your query (for instance whether you are being sued for consequential damage because a pump you supplied failed to deal with a particular flood adequately), but a certain degree of exaggeration is allowable in advertising, provided you're not too specific about it. But it would be wise in any event to state what volume of water the pump is designed to be able to cope with in any sale contract you sign, in order to avoid the "lawyer's field day" that Ken mentions.

That's partly what a contract is for - making sure each party knows exactly what it's entitled to get out of the deal. In this case, because people may be relying on these pumps to keep their homes or businesses dry, that ought to include a statement of the maximum operating capacity of the pumps (and probably also how long for, if the pump is close to its design limits in terms of its failure probability when operating at peak ). In other words, if the MTBF is very short when operating at peak capacity, this should be reflected in your description of the pump's performance.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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Interpretation of a common phrase.

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Dec 30, 2001 6:32 pm

Wet suits can cost a lot of money.
Reply from Edwin Ashworth (Oldham - England)
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Interpretation of a common phrase.

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Dec 30, 2001 6:46 pm

Yes, even to the point of daylight rubbery.
Reply from Erik Kowal ( - England)
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Interpretation of a common phrase.

Post by Archived Reply » Sun Dec 30, 2001 7:01 pm

Although it is too late, of the seepage, one might say "the sump pumps should handle it", allowing "should" to imply that, all things being correct, they will, but if broken, they won't. (Or the sump pump should handle it, if it is one pump.)
Reply from Chrystal Hays (Dallas Texas in the - U.S.A.)
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