A while back, I found some people on my dashboard scoffing at how silly it is that word-counters can return different results on the same bit of text. Of course, life is rarely this simple, and in this case you can thank one single punctuation mark for it:
Microsoft Word for instance, will say that the phrase “Use the word-counter to re-educate the baby-eaters” has 7 words in it, but personally, I read it as 9 words. Particularly naïve word counters might claim that it has 10 words in it, considering that “re” and “educate” are also words in their own right.
Perhaps you agree with MS Word and really think the sentence has 7 words in it, but would you really agree that the sentence “And then the entire class gave me a what-on-Earth-are-you-doing-you-trigger-happy-jump-to-conclusions-low-life look” only has 10 words? But on the other hand, if you really do think that all the words here are separate, what do you think of the subphrases “trigger-happy” and “low-life”? Are they genuinely two words when the combination of the two mean so much more than the two words in isolation?
On the other hand, “This bottle measures 5 ± 1 cm tall” can have 8 words in it, but more normally people will reply that it has 5 words in it, taking the entirety of “5 ± 1 cm” as one word. On the other hand, if a word counter expands the symbols, “5 plus-or-minus 1 centimetres”, and it counts “plus-or-minus” as three words, then the sentence has 10 words. Even more confusingly, I personally consider “5 ± 1” as one word and “cm” as another, so I would disagree with all of those and say that this sentence is six words long.
In conclusion, an old adage goes, “every sign has a story behind it”. Seeing a sentence like that should have you investigate, after you get your shock.