between

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between

Post by dalehileman » Tue Feb 22, 2005 6:03 pm

Conducting an ongoing psyche experiment, in my questionnaire I use the word "between" to mean "from,to, exclusively". Eg: between 5 and 8 we find 6 and 7. In the meantime, however, I've been roundly criticized, apprised contrarily, and advised positively and in no uncertain terms that I should have added the term "exclusively." I am baffled by this as all my life as an engineer and journalist I had thought that "between" implies exclusivity. Eg, "between a rock and a hard place" doesn't include the rock or the hard place. Have I been wrong all this time
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Post by russcable » Tue Feb 22, 2005 7:29 pm

Ahhh, but there are multiple meanings of between which cause this to be unclear to non-engineers.
For example, air service between LA and NY certainly includes LA and NY but excludes Albuquerque and Kansas City even though Albuquerque and Kansas City are between LA and NY.
If you were to measure the distance between NY and LA, would you measure from the edges or from the centers? Most would measure from the centers, but doesn't that include some of each in the measurement?
If I keep this a secret between you and me, you and I are both included in the secret and everyone else is excluded even if they come between us.
If your office hours are between 1pm and 2pm, do you have office hours at all or are they from 1:01 to 1:59? If your office hours are between 1 and 4, are you only there from 2 to 3?
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Post by Bobinwales » Tue Feb 22, 2005 9:04 pm

Faced with your predicament Dale I think I would have said “between 6 and 7 inclusively”. Although you were undoubtedly correct, Russ has pointed out how and why confusion could reign, and I have to say that you cannot assume that everyone has an understanding of the vagaries of the language.
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Post by Phil White » Tue Feb 22, 2005 9:22 pm

Unless I'm very mistaken, you in the US often use "1 through 10" to include both numbers. This usage is less common in the UK.
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Post by dalehileman » Wed Feb 23, 2005 3:50 am

Russ: But I am an engineer. I had always assumed that if I asked someone to pick a number between 7 and 11 the average clod like myself would immediately think of 8, 9, and 10, not 8.72 ior 9.13. Am I not sufficiently nuanced
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Wed Feb 23, 2005 4:30 am

No, I think not, Dale. As Russ has so clearly demonstrated in his excellent examples, context is all in this matter.
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between

Post by russcable » Wed Feb 23, 2005 4:41 am

Dale: That you are an engineer is exactly my point. An old joke: How do you tell engineers from non-engineers? Ask them to count to ten - if they start with 0 they're an engineer.
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Post by dalehileman » Wed Feb 23, 2005 4:12 pm

Russ: Point well taken. By "point" of course I mean "gist" and not decimal, not dot or stop

And of course I should have said "nor" tho I have often lain awake nights wondering exactly when this distinction is necessary
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Post by haro » Wed Feb 23, 2005 9:04 pm

Dale, poor chap, is your sleep also hampered by the big question if the light inside your fridge really is out when the door is shut? Ok, just teasin'.

Russ, here's another, equally old, approach: An optimist sees a glass that's half full. A pessimist sees a glass that's half empty. An engineer sees a glass that's twice as big as it needs to be.

It looks to me like the whole issue is caused by the conflict between formal and informal logic. Semantics of formal logic often differ from those of natural languages. For instance, a logical 'or' also includes the possibility of an "and," unless it is an "exclusive or." In most natural languages "or" normally is exclusive. "Black or white" usually excludes "black and white," which is not the case in formal logic.
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Post by dalehileman » Wed Feb 23, 2005 11:16 pm

Hans, thank you for that. Because "and/or" has always seemed awkward to me I have always used just "or" Once or twice when I was taken to task, I explained it as you do above, and that made me feel quite superior. An engineeer needs such a boost once in a while
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