Everything Language and Grammar


Posted by languageandgrammar on December 1, 2009

This is just a rough guestimate, but I believe that I’ve heard “guestimate” said five times in the past two weeks. If you ask me, that’s six times too many–if you count the time I just said it.

I’m not going to debate whether guestimate (or guestimation) is a word since I’m sure that some descriptivists out there would find it listed in some dictionary or would simply argue that its use is all that’s needed to make it word, so I’ll focus, instead, on the lack of logic of its usage.

Guestimate is clearly a combination of the word guess and estimate, most likely a humorous concoction by a clever person in the 20th century, and the lack of logic arises from the fact that the word estimate means “an approximate judgement,” which means that it’s a conclusion drawn without complete evidence. A guess is to “arrive a conclusion without having complete knowledge.”

In other words, a guess and an estimate are effectively the same thing, so the words don’t need to be combined; they need to be separated–separated into different sentences since pairing them is a redundancy.

I know. I know. I’ve heard it argued that a guestimate is a less precise estimate than an estimate but more precise than a guess. That’s what I call I stretch, or a stretchtimation of language.



6 Responses to “Guestimate”

  1. SAM said

    I just found this blog and I love it! I was in search of the correct usage of me vs. myself and your site helped. Thank you!

    Will definitely be picking up your book! 🙂

  2. SAM said

    Oh, one more thing…a blog entry on “ensure” vs.
    “insure” would be interesting…I was writing a letter in which “ensure” was the proper word to use and my boss said it should be “insure”…I didn’t have the strength to argue with him.

  3. Rick said

    Other common tautological statements eg never before, forward progress. Inquire or enquire? “Off” instead of “from” very widely misused has become so inveterate as to be acceptable? (though not technically of course). Have heard many times (especially in US?) the use of “off of” in a phrase eg in Goodfellas the movie: “Stop feeding the dog off of the table”. Saying this sounds odds but when it’s written surely people would have to question how it reads and looks. Adios from Sydney, Australia.

  4. […] Guestimate. Using words that aren’t valid words can weaken your writing, as this post illustrates. […]

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