Monday, 23 August 2010

Everything in this bin £1

I went into a stationery shop in Sheffield recently. There was a bin, full of small items, labelled 'Everything in this bin £1'. So, I offered them a pound and said I would like to buy everything in the bin. Disappointingly they would not let me make this purchase.

So here's an interesting observation about language. 'Each' is a rather neglected word in colloquial English, but it has more precision than 'every'. 'Each thing' does not have the same potential for ambiguity as 'everything'. 'Each thing in this bin costs £1' is unambiguous. It is clearly a generalisation, a statement that is true for any item in the set of things in the bin, not an aggregative statement about the whole set.

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