this is part of as days pass by, by Stuart Langridge

Why are salesmen incapable of using ordinal numbers? Or any number bigger than ten? This is really annoying.

Listen to a few car adverts on the radio, for example. "Rush to your local Smegma Autos dealer, and get a brand-new Smegma Secretion for only £5995!" Except that that's not what they say. "£5995" should be "five thousand, nine hundred and ninety-five pounds". Not "five nine nine five". For a start, that's not one number, it's four separate ones. What, you mean that I can buy the four quarters of the car for five pounds, nine pounds, nine pounds and five pounds respectively? Cor. I'm sure I can stretch to twenty-eight quid. How difficult is it to read out a whole number? Do they really believe that their audience is so congentially incapable that they can't handle numbers in double digits? And "five nine nine five" what? It's bloody pounds! It's a unit of measurement! You can't say that a car is just 5995. Unless that's its model name, it just isn't. I can't understand why this happens. Maybe it's just an attempt to keep my vocal cords strong and active, because every time I hear someone say it, I shout at the radio.

It's the same with dates. I'm writing this on the 29th of October. Not "the 29th October", which would imply that there were twenty-eight previous Octobers in which I was not writing -- possibly true, but not the intent of the speaker. Nor is it "29 October" -- well, that's acceptable as a written date format, especially for computer handling. But not in speech! It's not "twenty-nine October". It's "the twenty-ninth of October", in speech. Ordinals! Not cardinals! If I wanted cardinals on dates I'd go to the Vatican. Get it right, advertising people!

Keeps me in fine voice on the way to work, I can tell you.

© Aquarius, October 2001