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Re: [Czechlist] Re: On the use of preposition "of" in chemical texts

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  • Michael Trittipo
    Message 1 of 3 , Nov 4, 2002
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      << What's the difference between these two sentences from the point of
      view of using the "of" preposition? Is it really the same if one says
      "Weigh 1 kg of gold" or "Weigh 1 kg gold?" >>

      IMO (only my opinion), the difference is that the second sentence would
      have been less subject to possible criticism had it used the "of." My
      guess would be that it would also be stylistically more consistent with
      the majority of uses in the textbook. As you have the entire textbook,
      you could quickly see whether it has a majority and minority usage. My
      guess would be that you'd find 5 to 10 times as many like the former as
      you would find like the latter.

      The sentence without "of" doesn't shock -- at least not in this limited
      "set problem" context where shorthand is common and there's a list of
      three elements in parallel format, that could be put into a table -- but
      it's better practice to put the "of" in -- and my guess (without a
      behavioral study in reading to back it up) is that most readers, well,
      at least many readers, would put the "of" in when reading aloud. The
      language for setting textbook problems is perhaps a bit specialized.

      So it's "really the same" in terms of referent and meaning; but it's not
      "really the same" in terms of preferred style (IMO), and I'd hesitate to
      draw any lessons about linguistic use outside the limited domain of
      textbook chemistry or physics and cookbook recipes. No editor whom I
      know would ever criticize the first sentence and make the writer take
      out the "of"; many editors might well criticize the second and make the
      writer add the "of" (though other editors might shrug), at least in this
      specific context of a chemistry text, and multiple products being listed
      in what can be felt as a kind of mini-table without the tabular layout.

      A Google search finds the following numbers, which may be a rough guide
      to proportional use:
      "grams chlorine" 9
      "grams of chlorine" 247
      "grams hydrogen" 53
      "grams of hydrogen" 808
      "milligrams gold" 47
      "milligrams of gold" 211
      "milliliters water" 137
      "milliliters of water" 1980
      These rough indicators might be further refined after examination of
      their contexts and sources; but at a first glance they seem reasonable
      enough.

      Not sure whether this is the kind of comment you were looking for. I
      guess I'd sum up by saying "not really different" in terms of how you
      should put them into Czech (i.e., there's no subtle meaning difference
      to be reflected); but that "of" is better (at least in the sense of
      being unexceptional) if you want to know how you'd be best advised to go
      in the other direction, Cz>Eng, in case that ever arises.
    • Simon Vollam
      Hi Dusan, ... Well, it s seven years since I last worked as a chemist (apart from the occasional chemical translating job), but I would say that the of is
      Message 2 of 3 , Nov 4, 2002
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        Hi Dusan,

        > "An unknown compound decomposes to produce 0.800 g of solid
        > sulfur and 0.560 of hydrogen gas." (I)
        >
        > "When 10.3 g of a particular sample of freon is decomposed, it
        > produces 2.24 dm^3 chlorine gas, 1.12 dm^3 hydrogen gas, and 1.12
        > dm^3 fluorine gas". (II)
        >
        > What's the difference between these two sentences from the point
        > of view of using the "of" preposition? Is it really the same if
        > one says "Weigh 1 kg of gold" or "Weigh 1 kg gold?"

        Well, it's seven years since I last worked as a chemist (apart from the
        occasional chemical translating job), but I would say that the 'of' is
        optional in this context, that there is no difference in the meaning, and
        that both options are widely used. Purists might say that sentence I is more
        grammatical, whereas pragmatists might prefer sentence II (especially if you
        have a list of several compounds - on the grounds of ellipsis). I also have
        a feeling that preferences might differ in BrE and AmE, for example. I'm
        British, and sentence I sounds a little more natural to me. But maybe the
        Americans (and others) on the list have a different opinion.

        Simon
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