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Define “Scale”

The English language is a peculiar invention. It’s principle rules are more like suggestions, with more exceptions than proofs. ‘American’ English is even more puzzling. A reflection of the people, American English freely borrows, steals and mimics words from other cultures.

The nuances native speakers take for granted can trip up those learning it as a second or even third language. A good friend of mine is a Chinese exchange student. Incredibly bright, she still struggled with spoken English and regional accents. She would often ask me what a word meant. At first I gave the most obvious, simple definitions that came to mind, but I was frequently mistaken (and only added to her confusion). Then I started asking her what was being talked about at the time BEFORE I tried to help (Also I gave her a copy of the American Heritage Dictionary). Anyone who has ever cracked open the dictionary is familiar with the numbered listing of definitions following a particular word. But with respect to dear Mr. Webster not all a word’s meanings, uses and abuses are found within his pages.

There is a the classic example of “MEDIUM”.

  • Medium – size, between small and large
  • Medium – material for making/constructing, such as an artist’s medium
  • Medium – a psychic

I recently considered the term “SCALE”. And without consulting a dictionary (or Google) I tried to think up as many uses for the word. Feel free to critic…or add some definitions of your own.


relationship or proportion of size

a means of measure

process of making something bigger or smaller (scale up or down)

series of musical notes

plant pest

mineral deposit often found on bath tile

skin of a fish or reptile

or as a verb – to ‘scale’ a fish

the device in the bathroom that makes me sad

the funny triangular shaped ruler architects/engineers use (or used to before AutoCAD)

climb a wall like Spiderman


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