biennial

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biennial

Post by Bobinwales » Tue Jan 31, 2006 4:58 pm

If a magazine is published biennially, it is produced every other year. Is there such a word were it to be published on alternate months, or even alternate weeks?
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Post by Phil White » Tue Jan 31, 2006 5:22 pm

Bob,
"Bi-monthly" (usually hyphenated in the UK) is ambiguous, but my feeling is that it is more often used for "once every two months" than "twice a month".
"Bimestral" is not ambiguous, but to my mind sounds hopelessly inflated.
"Bi-weekly" is also ambiguous, but here we Brits have the advantage of the Americans with our quaint, but unambiguous "fortnightly". Unless I am mistaken, it is rare or even almost unknown stateside.
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Post by Ken Greenwald » Tue Jan 31, 2006 5:53 pm

Bob, What you have pointed out is one of those annoying failures of the English language that has always bugged me and I’m sure many others as well. But all I can do is point out the problem and not the solution. When a magazine says that they are a bimonthly, are they talking 24 issues a year or 6? And the answer is that it is ambiguous and unless they explain further, it is impossible to tell:

BIMONTHLY: 1) Happening every two months. 2) Happening twice a month; semimonthly.
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The Oxford English Dictionary provides the following:

BI- prefix. Lasting or continuing for two—; occurring or appearing every two —; as biennial, bi-hourly, bi-monthly, bi-weekly.

BI- prefix. Occurring or appearing twice in a —; as in bi-diurnal, bi-monthly, bi-quarterly, bi-weekly, bi-winter, bi-yearly. (The ambiguous usage is confusing, and might be avoided by the use of semi-; e.g. semi-monthly, semi-weekly; cf. half-yearly.)
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BIANNUAL: 1) occurring twice a year. 2) occurring every two years BIENNIAL

BIENNIAL: 1) lasting or living for two years 2) happening every second year
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So BIENNIAL, as you point out, is clean/unambiguous, but the rest of the BI-s are not. A solution, as the OED points out would be to reserve the BI-s for ‘happening every second’ and use SEMI- for ‘happening twice,’ but it’s probably too late for that now. And as far as a FORTNIGHT goes, over here, most folks would probably say it meant a night at a fort! (<:)
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Ken G – January 31, 2006
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Post by Wizard of Oz » Tue Jan 31, 2006 9:10 pm

.. you learn and learn .. fortnight is in common usage in Aus and I would've presumed in the US .. Ken is there any thoughts on why this word .. which came in the English migrant language package .. did not catch on in the US ?? ..
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Post by russcable » Tue Jan 31, 2006 10:02 pm

Out of curiousity, when do you use fortnight instead of two weeks or 14 days? Do you use it to mean "around two weeks" rather than "exactly two weeks"? Would you count - 1 week, 1 fortnight, 3 weeks, 2 fortnights,... or say - we stayed 3 fortnights, 1 week, 3 days and 6 hours? How many fortnights do a summer make? ^_^
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Post by Erik_Kowal » Tue Jan 31, 2006 10:32 pm

A fortnight (a contraction of 'fourteen night') is generally used rather loosely, just as an American might use the term 'a couple of weeks'. No-one would ever say '3 fortnights, 1 week, 3 days' unless they found receiving old-fashioned looks more enjoyable than the average person does.
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Post by Phil White » Tue Jan 31, 2006 11:10 pm

I'd say it's pretty well identical to "two weeks". Sometimes it can be loose, sometimes not. If your doctor says "see me again in two weeks", would you understand that as exactly two weeks or not? If it's Wednesday, and she holds surgeries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, you'd probably take it as pretty exact. If she holds surgeries every day, then thirteen to fifteen days is certainly covered, possibly a greater span.

And we can combine it to get any precision we want: "a fortnight today/tomorrow", "a fortnight Monday". I'm not at all sure I've ever heard or seen it in the plural.
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Post by Edwin Ashworth » Thu Feb 02, 2006 2:34 pm

Precision and approximation in language are both fine provided everybody knows which usage is being employed. This usually means keeping the usages obviously separate.

I remember learning the table showing the relationships between common units of time:

60 seconds = 1 minute
60 minutes = 1 hour
24 hours = 1 day
7 days = 1 week
14 days = 1 fortnight
4 weeks = 1 month
12 months = 1 year and 52 weeks = 1 year

and being concerned that, although you could work out that there were 60x60 = 3600 seconds in an hour, 4x7 doesn't equal 31, 30 or 29 and 12 x 4 doesn't equal 52.
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