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How Long Is A Piece Of String (And Why)?

Exact Answer: Twice As Long As Half Its length

People often think of certain questions like how big is the universe or how many stars are there in the sky which do not have an exact answer. On similar lines is the question of how long is a piece of string. Though it is a rhetorical question that has no answer, it is often used humorously to mean something infinite.

The phrase how long is a piece of string is also used when the length or size of a particular string is unknown, variable, or relative.

The literal meaning of this question can have no definite answer as no one can determine the exact length of a piece of string as everyone might possess a different length. The piece of string can be as long as 10,000 feet or as short as just 6 inches.

How Long Is A Piece Of String?

The length of the piece of string can be of any measure and thus a concrete answer is not deducible. Thus, the phrase how long is a piece of string is a common English idiom that is stated when the preceding question has no certain response and is effectively unanswerable due to technical limitations.

In reality, the question is extremely relative as there is no standard length for a piece of string ever defined and thus it is next to impossible to answer such a vague question. Hence it is used in a rhetorical sense as a response to a question with no apparent answer as precisely a piece of string can be of any length.

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This English idiom is often used in a slightly humorous tone and is generally not regarded as disrespectful or rude. However. if one certainly expects an answer to such a question, a response like twice as long as half its length or twice as long as it is from one end to the middle are some of the possible solutions that could be the answer if the length of the piece of string in question is known.

Possible Lengths How Long Is A Piece Of String?
A short piece of string2 cm, 6 inches, etc
A long piece of string50 m, 80 feet, etc

Why Is A String This Long?

A string in literal terms means a cord, wire, or a thin rope that can be used for a variety of purposes like for tying gifts, wood, books, etc. A group of different things in a series could also be denoted as being in a string. For example, a string of pearls in a necklace, etc. Thus, if one just wants to know the length of a string is mandatory to specify what type of string is considered in the question.

The question of how long is a piece of is string is more of a philosophical one than a scientific one. Conventionally, one would think that the answer to this question would be in terms of cm, m, miles, feet, etc. However, on thinking on a much deeper level one could understand that this question is asked with a preposterous intention as there seems to be no exact and accurate answer for it.

To support the above idea one could also take into consideration that even mathematicians consider a piece of string to be infinite in length. Thus, witty responses like twice the distance from the middle to the end could help in answering such mind-boggling questions

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Conclusion

The phrase how long is a piece of string is common a British English idiom that is used to denote something that does not have or cannot be assigned a finite value just like a piece of string. If can technically have any value and thus is considered infinite in length. Nobody can accurately determine the exact length of a string and thus its measurement is not possible. Hence, the given question can be used to mean anything relative or something that cannot be assigned a finite measurement.

References

  1. https://www.cambridge.org/core/journals/mathematical-gazette/article/how-long-is-a-piece-of-string/35CBE8217E6DBB0F0F1ED81505A16CFC
  2. https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/pdf/10.1080/00071005.1988.9973779