Thursday, February 16, 2006

Like Totally Deviated

"He was tall."

"How tall was he?"

"A little taller than average, taller than average pretty tall, tall tall, really tall, extremely tall, super tall, a giant."

Like many things, height is normally distributed (or close to it); e.g., for women 18 to 24, the mean is 65.5 inches and the s.d. is 2.5 inches.

The question of the day ponders the relationship between language and the Normal Distribution. In the language I speak, for example, we frequently use adjectives to indicate positions significantly to the left or right of the mean--e.g., short and tall.

From there, adverbs and adverbial phrases do the tweaking--pretty tall, really tall, extremely tall. The adverbs are general purpose. Really shot, really thin, really fat, really tall.

How much consistency is there in the amount of tweaking these modifiers do? Do they tend to map consistently to specific normal deviates or constistently modify an initial deviate in some way?

Things that make you go hmmm...


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