Today I was putting together a spreadsheet to compare offerings from some companies we’re evaluating. As I was listing the frequency of something they do, I was going to put biweekly, but then I wasn’t sure how that would be interpreted. One thing that has always frustrated me (and confused me to no end) is this term with its conflicting meaning. Let’s take a look at the definition:
appearing or taking place every two weeks or twice a week.
a periodical that appears every two weeks or twice a week.
I mean, is this somebody’s idea of a joke? How do you allow one single word to simultaneously mean two things that don’t jive with each other? They differ mathematically by a factor of 4. FOUR! What if I demanded my paycheck (paid out biweekly) twice a week? After all, that’s biweekly too. Then I’d get paid four times as much, given each check amount is the same. So if I agreed to pay you $100 biweekly, would you expect $10,400 by the end of a year or just a paltry $2600? That’s a staggering difference, isn’t it?? I just don’t get how this so often and so easily overlooked.
The same goes for the similarly infuriatingly vague “bimonthly” term that runs along those same illogical lines. When I say bimonthly, how do you know if I mean twice a month or every other month? There really is no true way to tell without using other phrases… and doesn’t that rather defeat the purpose of a word that is supposed to have a meaning that people understand? Can’t we assign only one definition to it or get rid of the word??! What if I said I’d meet you at noon, except noon meant either 6 in the morning or 10 at night? When would you show up?
So ultimately what did I decide to do for my conundrum at work? I used the term fortnightly.