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Missing number in sign

Switch Blayde

Ok, I have a sign riddled with bullet holes. The sign has a population number on it, but the first number isn't readable because of the bullet holes. I don't know how to represent that. This is what I wrote:

Steele knew he was getting close when the speed limit dropped to forty-five. Shortly thereafter, he came upon a bullet-ridden sign that said, "Welcome to Cactus Pointe, population x890." He couldn't make out the first number from the multiple bullet holes. It could have been a one or even a seven. It didn't matter. The sign's condition meant it hadn't been updated in decades.


As you can see, I used an x for the missing first number. Or should it be a hyphen? Or "something-890"? Or what? I'm stumped.

Ernest Bywater

I'd have done it as X890 as the lower case x looks more like a multiplication sign.

robberhands

I'd suggest:

Steele knew he was getting close when the speed limit dropped to forty-five. Shortly thereafter, he came upon a bullet-ridden sign that said, "Welcome to Cactus Pointe, population bullet-hole-890."

I'd omit the following explanations. They are pointless and weaken the impression.

Reluctant_Sir
Updated:

@Switch Blayde

You might consider changing 'bullet-ridden' to 'bullet-riddled'. I am not sure a bullet can ride something.

Unless the 890 is essential to the plot, I would probably do something like...


Steele knew he was getting close when the speed limit dropped to forty-five. Next, he saw a bullet-riddled sign that said, 'Welcome to Cactus Pointe'. There had been a population number under that, but time and target practice had made it unreadable.


If it IS essential:


Steele knew he was getting close when the speed limit dropped to forty-five. Next, he saw a bullet-riddled sign that said, 'Welcome to Cactus Pointe'. There had been a four-digit population number ending in 890 under that, but time and target practice had made the first number unreadable.

Remus2

@Reluctant_Sir

The last one reads better either way to my eyes.

awnlee jawking
Updated:

@Reluctant_Sir

You might consider changing 'bullet-ridden' to 'bullet-riddled'. I am not sure a bullet can ride something.


Bullet-riddled is obviously the safe option but bullet-ridden has been around since at least the 19th century and is in common usage - everyone understands its meaning. I would regard it as an acceptable idiomatic expression.

ETA - in this sense, ridden has nothing to do with transport, yet the dead-tree dictionary next to my desk (from the Oxford stable) lists its meaning under 'ride'! However, technically you'd expect the bullets to still be present cf pox-ridden.

AJ

Ross at Play

@awnlee jawking

Bullet-riddled is obviously the safe option but ... I would regard [bullet-ridden] as an acceptable idiomatic expression.

I consider 'bullet-ridden' a mistake, but it's hard to say it's unacceptable when ngrams suggest about one in three get it "wrong".

StarFleet Carl

@awnlee jawking

bullet-ridden has been around since at least the 19th century and is in common usage - everyone understands its meaning.


They do? I'd consider it a mistake. I've certainly seen my share of bullet-riddled signs - may have even helped contribute to a few of those in younger days.

http://throwgrammarfromthetrain.blogspot.com/2013/06/riddle-me-this-bullet-ridden-corpse.html

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@Switch Blayde

'Welcome to Cactus Pointe, population 890'. The number of thousands had been decimated by a mosaic of bullet holes. It could have been a one or even a seven. It didn't matter. The sign's condition meant it hadn't been updated in decades.

AJ

Reluctant_Sir
Updated:

@awnlee jawking

Yeah, no. I disagree that it was ever an acceptable substitute.

Pox-ridden, much like flea-ridden or even disease-ridden conveys the communicability or portability of the 'thing' where as there is no way to spread bullets after they have been fired.

Another definition I read:

Ridden, after all, means "burdened, oppressed, harassed by": debt-ridden, hag-ridden, conscience-ridden. A riddle is a sieve, so riddled is the word for something (or someone) full of holes

Crumbly Writer

@Switch Blayde

As you can see, I used an x for the missing first number. Or should it be a hyphen? Or "something-890"? Or what? I'm stumped.

Personally, I'd use an ellipsis, as that's precisely what it was intended for.

"Population …890"

Or not. I don't think it will affect the meaning of the sentence either way.

Crumbly Writer

@Reluctant_Sir

You might consider changing 'bullet-ridden' to 'bullet-riddled'. I am not sure a bullet can ride something.

"Riddle me this, oh bullet-riddling sign. What goes up, but never comes down? Ha-ha-ha!"

Crumbly Writer

@StarFleet Carl

Do your homework: Such search for "-term- etymology".

I immediately got this from Wikipedia:

Etymology 1

See ride (verb)
Verb

ridden

past participle of ride

Adjective

ridden (comparative more ridden, superlative most ridden)

Full of.
Oppressed, dominated or plagued by.

Usage notes

Usually used as combining form: guilt-ridden, etc.

or even better, consult etymonline.com:

ridden (adj.)

mid-14c., from past participle of ride (q.v.). Sense evolution, via horses, is from "that which has been ridden upon, broken in" (1520s) to, in compounds, "oppressed, taken advantage of" (1650s).

Replies:   Reluctant_Sir
Reluctant_Sir
Updated:

@Crumbly Writer

And how, pray tell, does one oppress a sign or take advantage of a sign by shooting holes in it? Can you even oppress or dominate or plague an inanimate object?

Even more importantly, why use a term that is inaccurate when you have the more accurate term at hand?

Just because a lot of people make the mistake does not mean the mistake is the new correct answer. For an example, see Darwinism :)

awnlee jawking

@Reluctant_Sir

Just because a lot of people make the mistake does not mean the mistake is the new correct answer.


Actually it does, because language is descriptive not prescriptive, and that's one of the ways it changes.

Chaise lounge, anyone? ;)

AJ

Replies:   robberhands
Crumbly Writer

@Reluctant_Sir

And how, pray tell, does one oppress a sign or take advantage of a sign by shooting holes in it? Can you even oppress or dominate or plague an inanimate object?

You're misinterpreting an alternative definition. "Oppressive" doesn't mean it's 'oppressing the sign', instead it says the sign is 'inflicted' with an oppression from an outside source. Much like a chicken-pox survivor bears the telltale poxmarks, the sign bears evidence of earlier gunshots. It's more evidence of cause than it is the cause itself.

If you read many etymologies, there's a certain archaic use of language in the definitions themselves. Once you get used to it, the odd phrasing no longer bothers you as much. Harping on the words used is like attacking Shakespeare for his 'dated' language.

Replies:   Reluctant_Sir
robberhands

Since SB wrote 'a sign riddled with bullets' in his OP, I think it's obvious that writing 'bullet-ridden' in the excerpt was a simple typo.

Yes, I also regard 'bullet-ridden' as a mistake and not a form of resourceful imagery.

Replies:   Switch Blayde
Reluctant_Sir

@Crumbly Writer

it says the sign is 'inflicted' with an oppression from an outside source.


Please explain how you can 'inflict an oppression' on an inanimate object (the sign) with an outside source.

op·pres·sion əˈpreSHən
noun
*prolonged cruel or unjust treatment or control.
*the state of being subject to unjust treatment or control.
*mental pressure or distress.


This just gets weirder and weirder.

robberhands

@awnlee jawking

Chaise lounge, anyone? ;)

Keep your Americanism-ridden chaise lounge out of this.

Replies:   awnlee_jawking
awnlee_jawking

@robberhands

Keep your Americanism-ridden chaise lounge out of this.


Nice one, and it demonstrates the inadequacy of some dictionaries' definitions of 'ridden'.

AJ

Switch Blayde

@Reluctant_Sir

You might consider changing 'bullet-ridden' to 'bullet-riddled'.


I originally wrote "riddled with bullets." When I Googled it, I found out "ridden" is the right word, not "riddled."

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Switch Blayde

I originally wrote "riddled with bullets." When I Googled it, I found out "ridden" is the right word, not "riddled."

You gotta be kidding.

Switch Blayde

@robberhands

Since SB wrote 'a sign riddled with bullets' in his OP, I think it's obvious that writing 'bullet-ridden' in the excerpt was a simple typo.


Not a typo.

I though it's "riddled with bullets" but "bullet-ridden."

But I guess my first instincts were correct. That's what happens when you try to be "right" and use Google.

As to my original question, I'm not going to include the population. All I was trying to do was show it as a small town.

Thanks all.

Switch Blayde

I went back to "riddled." Thanks, everyone.

Steele knew he was getting close when the speed limit dropped to forty-five. Shortly thereafter, he came upon a sign riddled with bullets. "Welcome to Cactus Pointe," it said. Some welcome.

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