About Aboutas Aboutamus

Once upon a time, a bunch of what must have been innocent tildes (~) were mechanically replaced by the phrase “similar to”, which is not entirely how the ~ was used in the nerdy parlance of the time. So it resulted in some absurd constructions, like:

[A] period of rapid uplift along the Sierran crest of more than similar to 1 km occurred…

Whoever decided “~” meant “similar to” was suffering, I think, from an irrational fear of the word “about”. Which isn’t uncommon – my old managers threw fits when I used “about” like that, and told me to replace it with “approximately”. Not because they don’t mean the exact same thing, but because “approximately” sounds fancier and more professional.

What on earth is wrong with the word “about”? It seems to me to be a perfectly good word, that doesn’t suffer from the connotation of undershooting associated with “nearly”, and is less tedious than “approximately”. I suppose its multiple meanings might confuse the imperfectly Anglophone, but I’m too cynical to believe that was really the motive here. (I’m also cynical enough to believe that the Desert Exurb Water Management Board really is impressed by extraneous syllables, but I’m irked that this is so.)

Updated to add a gratuitous pirate joke: What’s a pirate’s favorite flow regime? Laminarrrr!


  1. Rex Ferric wrote:

    My only problem with the word “about” is that, in my head, I always hear it with a stereotypical Canadian accent (but then, maybe that’s just me…)

  2. yami wrote:

    That’s not a problem, it’s an opportunity – an opportunity to make fun of Canada!

  3. cap'n des von bladet wrote:

    TARRRRRRRRRRbulent is quite good too.

  4. yami wrote:

    I’ve been finding over-rhoticized laminarrrs in the wild, though but.

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