100-square-mile vs. 100-miles square; alliteration vs assonance vs consonance

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

John August ponders a misprint in the Los Angeles Times:

Solar power: A Friday editorial said that according to the U.S. Energy Department, enough sunlight hits a “100-square-mile” portion of the Nevada desert to power the entire country. It should have said “100-miles-square.”

I maybe would have caught the 100-square-mile, but I wouldn't have known "100-miles-square" without looking it up.

But I'm more interested in the claim, because it's pretty vague. If I were proofing this, I'd ask whether "country" refers to the contiguous United States, excluding Alaska, Hawaii, and all our territories and embassies and everything else, or if it includes those, too. And for how long? A day? A year? Indefinitely?

And even still, suppose someone built that 100-miles-square solar panel and the cost of energy plummeted: Then people would consume a lot more energy. I can't say how much more, but likely more than the 100-miles-square panel would provide.

"Elite Eight" is cacophonous to Don Boudreaux's ears:

So unlike many Americans at this time of year, I remain sane throughout this period of "March Madness." But all the alliteration is inescapable -- "March Madness"; "Sweet Sixteen"; "Final Four"; "Elite Eight."

Wait! "Elite Eight"? What a terrible term for the eight college basketball teams remaining in the annual NCAA tournament. It's not alliterative at all.

Now you're probably thinking, Wait! "Elite Eight" wouldn't be alliteration; it'd be assonance! (and if you're wondering what the difference is, "alliteration" is the repetition of a consonant sound; "assonance" is the repetition of a vowel sound [and if you want to get really technical, alliteration is a repeated consonant sound at the beginning of the words; whereas "consonance" is a repeated consonant sound anywhere in the words]).

But it's usually okay for alliteration to mean all those--repeated consonant and vowels sounds occurring anywhere in the word.


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