Similar case in point: “bimonthly” means “twice a month.” That makes sense.

But the definition for “bi-weekly” does not make sense.

What do you think?

    • TheDarkKnight@lemmy.world
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      7 months ago

      The part doesn’t use gendered language as a main component, lol. But otherwise yeah, it’s tricky haha.

  • neidu@feddit.nl
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    7 months ago

    I’m wondering the same thing about Bible. Does it mean twice per Ble or every other Ble?

  • jadero@lemmy.ca
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    7 months ago

    I was taught that the “bi” prefix was a multiplier and “semi” was a divider.

    That meant biweekly, bimonthly, biannually were every 2 weeks, months, years and semi-weekly, semi-monthly, semi-annually were every half a week, half a month, and half a year.

    Then the real world intruded and I’ve been confused ever since. About the only time I hear “semi” and “bi” used on a regular basis the way I expect is with pay periods. Biweekly is every two weeks and semi-monthly is twice a month.

    Canada, by the way.

    PS: I suppose bisexual and semi trailers also fit my expectations.

    • Rodeo@lemmy.ca
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      7 months ago

      I’m on your side. Your rule makes sense, and what other people are doing doesn’t make sense.

      Stick to your rule and tell everyone else they’re wrong.

    • pythonoob@programming.dev
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      7 months ago

      I never heard that semi meant 1/2. I’ve always thought of semi as rather vague tbh. Meaning that there is no set amount of time between things.

      • nybble41@programming.dev
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        7 months ago

        bi- means two, as in bicycle: two wheels (circles)

        semi- means half, as in semicircle: half of a circle

        The problem is that the prefixes can be parsed as affecting either duration/interval as in (bi-week)ly, every two weeks, or frequency as in bi-(weekly), two times weekly. The same applies to semi-.

        Personally I find the frequency interpretation a bit of a stretch—“two” is not the same as “two times” or “twice”—so I would tend to read e.g. bimonthly as every two months rather than twice each month.

          • nybble41@programming.dev
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            7 months ago

            bi-sect: cut into two parts; from Latin “bi-”, two, and “secare”, to cut.

            The “sect” part is critical. “bi-” on its own doesn’t imply division.

            • ASeriesOfPoorChoices@lemmy.world
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              7 months ago

              Heh, yeah, I’m just messing with people here 😆

              (This language confusion is mildly amusing, in the apparent inherent ambiguity we’ve created)

        • CleoTheWizard@lemmy.world
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          7 months ago

          I prefer the opposite system. If someone said to me: we will meet two weekly, it seems closer to “twice weekly” than once every two weeks. Where as semi weekly saying “half weekly” makes it sound like one half of the weeks we meet and the other half we don’t. I have no idea how anyone thinks that meaning semi-weekly means twice weekly. Even the “we meet every half week” makes little sense to me syntax-wise.

          • nybble41@programming.dev
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            7 months ago

            If someone said to me: we will meet two weekly…

            You’re essentially assuming the conclusion by grouping it like that. There are three parts to “biweekly”, “bi-”, “week”, and “-ly”. “Once per biweek”, i.e. once per 14 days (or per fortnight), makes at least as much sense as “two” × “weekly”.

            I have no idea how anyone thinks that meaning semi-weekly means twice weekly.

            Meeting semiweekly (semiweek-ly, if you must hyphenate it) means meeting every semiweek, or every half-week (3.5 days). Which is an odd internal to meet at if taken literally but would result in meeting twice each week. “Semiannually” is a more common example, and I’ve never seen or heard it used to refer to anything but a 6-month (half-year) interval.

      • User_4272894@lemmy.world
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        7 months ago

        I always assumed semi meant “some fraction of a whole” and “hemi” meant exactly half.

        For example, semi truck, semi colon, and even semester aren’t “half” a truck, colon, or school year. But they are fractions of one.

        • jadero@lemmy.ca
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          7 months ago

          “Semi truck” is not half a truck, but a truck designed to carry one half the weight of the cargo it is hauling. A semi trailer is one designed to have half of its load (by weight) carried by the tow vehicle. A standard trailer gets difficult and possibly dangerous to tow if the weight carried by the tow vehicle (hitch weight) strays too far outside the 8%-12% range.

          And just to add to the confusion, Dodge popularized something called the “hemi engine”–an engine with a “hemi head”, not half an engine. And “hemi head” refers not to “1/2 an engine head” but to the approximately hemispherical (1/2 sphere) shape of the combustion chambers cast/machined into the engine head.

    • LillyPip@lemmy.ca
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      7 months ago

      This was how I learnt it, too.

      Very simple: bi = x2, semi = /2.

      Lots of people use the terms wrong, though.

    • Turun@feddit.de
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      7 months ago

      Does weekly mean the frequency or the interval length? Either way, the bi doubles it - to twice the frequency, or twice the pause in between events.

      I think either interpretation is fair.

    • asret@lemmy.zip
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      7 months ago

      It all comes down to common usage, either interpretation can work. It’s like the phrase “I could care less” now means entirely opposite things to some people.

      Biannual means twice a year here. Biennial is used for every two years.

      Similarly for biweekly, we have fortnightly for every two weeks which means no-one uses biweekly to mean the same thing.

      It’s all just down to common usage though.

    • corsicanguppy@lemmy.ca
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      7 months ago

      We whinge and moan about the French language police, but a curator of a global English occasionally shows merit as an idea.

      If it can encourage people to learn adverbs other than ‘literally’ and stop munging words - “that above revert emails ask was fire” - then I’m all for it. The less a sentence looks like it was in a car crash, the better.

    • LillyPip@lemmy.ca
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      7 months ago

      No it doesn’t. Lots of people misuse it that way, but:

      Bi = x2 and semi = /2

      So biweekly = every two weeks and semiannually means twice a year.

      This is misused quite a lot, but the meanings aren’t the same, they’re opposites.

      • Sway@lemmy.world
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        7 months ago

        Not necessarily. The definition allows biweekly to mean both, because bi- simply refers to their being 2, so it is defined as being “twice per” or “every two”. If it could only be used in the way you present then the word bifurcate would mean to replicate, as opposed to divide in two.

        That being said, dictionaries will often note that semi- should be used to avoid confusion, and writing style guides, like Chicago, will state semi- needs to be used for instances where you mean twice a week.

  • viking@infosec.pub
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    7 months ago

    Bi-weekly means twice a week and every two weeks. Look it up in the dictionary of you choosing.

  • Echo Dot@feddit.uk
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    7 months ago

    It’s because of British English, and the fact that American English seems to have dropped a word which is caused confusion.

    Bi-weekly means two times a week.

    Fortnightly means every 2 weeks. But American English seems to have lost the word fortnightly, so there is this ambiguity now.

  • Nollij@sopuli.xyz
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    7 months ago

    The real answer is to solve this by using different terms. For instance, “twice per week” or “every other week”.

    Don’t try to get anyone to agree on a definition, it’s just begging for problems.

      • techt@lemmy.world
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        7 months ago

        Semi-weekly happens once every semi-week. Much like a semi-circle is half a circle, a semi-week is half a week. Once every half-week is twice weekly.

        A bi-week is 2 weeks. Once every two weeks.

  • jerkface@lemmy.ca
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    7 months ago

    I prefer to use “semiweekly” for twice in a week, and so on for other periods.

    • AnonStoleMyPants@sopuli.xyz
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      7 months ago

      Lmao I’d interpret that as every two weeks. Semi meaning “almost”, so “semiweekly” would mean almost weekly, hence, every two weeks. I guess you could think “almost” the other way but I feel like semi is usually used in a way that is “quite but not as good”, twice a week would be more than once a week so I semi would have to be every two weeks in my mind.

  • shrugal@lemm.ee
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    7 months ago

    Wait, so bi-weekly and bi-monthly mean almost the same thing (every 14/15 days)? That’s insanity!

    • Echo Dot@feddit.uk
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      7 months ago

      Bi-weekly means twice a week, and bi-monthly (Which outside of banking I’ve never heard anyone ever use) means every 2 weeks.

      So if I do something bi-weekly then in a month I’ve done it eight times. If I do something bi-monthly then in a month I’ve done it two times.

      English is stupid. Even native speakers don’t understand it.

      Interestingly enough my spell check refuses to even acknowledge that bi-monthly is a valid word. It’s fine with bi-weekly though. So it’s entirely possible there is actually no such word and it’s just been created by the banking industry to get around the fact that for some reason they can’t use fortnight.

  • BarqsHasBite@lemmy.world
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    7 months ago

    There was often much confusion about this in the past because as you said it can mean multiple things. We seem to have gone away from any proper etymological use of the word ‘bi’ and have defined (for the most part) biweekly to be every two weeks, bimonthly to be twice a month, biannually to be twice a year (that one maybe not). Legal documents that I see don’t use those terms to avoid confusion.

    • jerkface@lemmy.ca
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      7 months ago

      Frustratingly, “biannual” can also mean twice a year or every two years. Fortunately there is the “biennial” which unambiguously means every two years.

        • jadero@lemmy.ca
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          7 months ago

          Are you sure about that? I’m from Canada and distinctly remember the travel ads urging us to head on down to participate in the bicentennial celebrations, meant to celebrate the second century of that country’s founding.

            • jadero@lemmy.ca
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              7 months ago

              Language is a wonderful chaos. You’re just on the leading edge of change! :)

              • baconisaveg@lemmy.ca
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                7 months ago

                One of the ‘trivia’ things on the display in our elevator was about how Websters had a listing for 5 years that wasn’t actually a word, ‘dord’. Like come on, now you can’t even trust words in the dictionary?!

  • PM_Your_Nudes_Please@lemmy.world
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    7 months ago

    The banks use “biweekly” and “semiweekly” to avoid this exact kind of ambiguity. Biweekly would be twice a week, while semiweekly would be every other week.

    It comes up in banking a lot because of payroll. If you get paid every other week, you get paid semiweekly. But if you get paid on the 1st and 15th of every month, you get paid bimonthly.

    • jadero@lemmy.ca
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      7 months ago

      Canadian here, with 50 years in the workforce. I’ve never once been paid semi-weekly or bimonthly. Here, biweekly is every two weeks semi-monthly is every half month. Obviously, that latter is often spoken of as twice a month, which just adds to the confusion between “bi” and “semi”.

      The reality is that these words, like most words (at least in English), mean whatever the speaker wants them to mean and consensus can be hard to reach.

      I give you the phrase “table the discussion”. Sometimes it means to formally bring something up for discussion. Other times it means setting the discussion aside for future consideration.

      Or, my favourite from my childhood, “fat chance” which means that something is even less likely than if it had a slim chance. Granted, that might be more in the line of idiomatic slang, but it stands as part of at least the era’s Canadian English that did have broad consensus and still does, I think.

      • lad@programming.dev
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        7 months ago

        On the last part: sometimes words drift to be widely accepted as an exact opposite of the original meaning. I think that happens because they were never popular enough for people to remember what they really meant or because too many people used them incorrectly.

        An example you gave “fat chances” feels like it was originally sarcastic but then stuck, “quite a bit” feels the same way although I don’t know for sure.

        And then apparently there are also contronyms that has exact opposite meaning, so yeah some things just require more explanation 😅

    • totallynotarobot@lemmy.world
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      7 months ago

      That’s insane I would understand both of those terms to mean the exact opposite of what you described.

      Also who gets paid twice a week and how do I arrange for that.

    • olmec@lemm.ee
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      7 months ago

      That seems backwards to me. Mainly because if you move it to years instead of weeks, something that happens twice a year happens in half a year (semiannual) while something that happens every other year happens in 2 years (biannual).

      Of course, I guess you you argue that it isn’t much time for the thing to happen, but how many times it does happen. The shareholders meeting happens in January and July, so it happens twice in a year, and it should be semiannual. This is because it happens is semi-year, or 6 months. But you could argue that it happens twice in a year, so has bi-annually.

      I realized I may have talked out of my original point, but I feel like my initial comment (semiannual is 6 months, and biannual is 24 months) is easier to understand.

    • dangblingus@lemmy.dbzer0.com
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      7 months ago

      What? No. Semi weekly only ever means twice per week. If you get paid on the 1st and 15th, you get paid semi monthly.

      • Ook the Librarian@lemmy.world
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        7 months ago

        Yeah. That makes no sense. While it seems the bi- prefix is ambiguous, semi- means “half”. I don’t see how semiweekly can possibility mean every other week.

        I hate the fact that you can’t correct people on language once a critical mass of misunderstanding happens and the dictionary codifies it. I get that is how dictionaries work, but it doesn’t mean I have to accept people saying biweekly to mean semiweekly. We have two words for two concepts, and we’re losing that.

        • EddoWagt@feddit.nl
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          7 months ago

          If semi means half, then semi-weekly means half weekly. The problem is that this is still ambiguous, as you can interpret it as half the time span, so twice a week, or half the frequency, so ones every 2 weeks.

          I know there is a difference in how people perceive time and I feel like this has something to do with that, but I can’t quite put it to words

          • Ook the Librarian@lemmy.world
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            7 months ago

            I get it can be confusing. We all have little mental quirks that sometimes make us feel like most people get something we don’t. Eg, one of mine is that I can’t get used to a digital watch. I like the more graphical format of an analog dial.

            I just wish people would consult a dictionary a little more often than they do. Instead, it seems like they hope to confuse enough people to change the dictionary.

          • Ook the Librarian@lemmy.world
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            7 months ago

            I’m just saying that whenever someone says “biweekly”, it is now incumbent on me to ask, “do you mean fortnightly or semiweekly?”. It slows down communication for no real benefit.

            I do sometimes say “fortnightly”, but as I already have a Backpfeifengesicht, I try to avoid it.

    • Dearche@lemmy.ca
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      7 months ago

      I’ve never heard of the concept of being paid twice a week, unless if you get paid daily but only worked twice that week. Is that really a thing in payroll, because I’ve only heard of biweekly pay to mean once every two weeks.

      Semiweekly isn’t a term I’ve ever heard, but I’ve never worked at a bank.

  • prime_number_314159@lemmy.world
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    7 months ago

    I think the conflict is between invisibly different sub-word groupings. I think of them as “(biweek)ly” = “happens every biweek” = "happens every two weeks, vs. “Bi(weekly)” = “happens twice as much as weekly” = “happens two times every week”.

    That doesn’t really help the ambiguity, so I prefer other ways of describing the recurrent timing of events when there isn’t anything obviously disambiguating them - for example, if I create a digital calendar event and name it “biweekly event”, the existence/nonexistence of repeated calendar events makes it obvious what is meant.

    • Echo Dot@feddit.uk
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      7 months ago

      At least in the Google calendar if I make an event and set it to repeat every N number of weeks It asks me how many N is.

      Then I can just put 2

      There’s no option for bi-weekly you just have to put the number two in the box, that seems to get rid of ambiguity.