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In Wired magazine, I came across: “fast and furious Internet speeds”. Why “speeds”? Why plural? Why is “speed” countable in the first place? Speed is measurable, but you can’t really count the concept of velocity itself, like one speed, two speeds, three speeds.

  • November 5, 2002
  • Posted by lee
  • Filed in Grammar

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I am assuming that the context was a discussion of multiple internet thingies (e.g. DSL and Cable, messageboards and blogs, etc.) which each move at different speeds. Since the speed of DSL and Cable are distinct, albeit both fast, they both move at rather fast speeds. The range of speeds on cable connections varies as well, so you'd use the plural to indicate that.

yoinkmydanish November 11, 2002, 4:50pm

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Dyske, I feel for you here. In fact, in English, you can count speeds as long as you describe them discretely. While the concept of velocity is continuous, a particular velocity is discrete. I have a 21-gear mountain bike, allowing me to obtain 21 different, discrete top speeds, thus it is a 21-speed mountain bike.

owl March 19, 2003, 7:09pm

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