Saturday, July 27, 2013

19^12 / approximately 2.213 x 10^15 / approximately 2 quadrillion

The expression "nineteen to the dozen" means something is going really fast.

 Where id the phrase come from?

The usual meaningis to do something at a great rate. It most often refers to speed of speaking, as in this instance from the Daily Mail of 23 October 2003: “Talking nineteen to the dozen, her conversation is still peppered with outrageous references and bawdy asides.” The idea is that the rate of talking is so great that when other people say merely a dozen words, the speaker gets in 19. It’s also sometimes used to describe rapid heartbeat in times of danger, and to refer to other fast-moving or fast-changing things (like dogs’ tails).

Nobody seems to have the slightest idea why 19 is the traditional number to use here, but it has been in that form ever since it was first recorded in the eighteenth century.

There is a story about it which associates it with the efficiency of Cornish beam engines. It is said that such engines in the Newcomen era of the eighteenth century could pump 19,000 gallons of water out of a tin mine while burning only 12 bushels of coal. I am sure this is a folk tale, as an origin so specific and arcane would have been unlikely to generate a popular saying. It's more likely that the figures were quoted in some treatise and were then picked up as a way to explain the origin of this puzzling phrase. But nobody can know for sure because its early history is obscure.

(copied from somewhere)


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