Accuracy Pet Peeve of the Day: You Can’t Give 110 Percent

Okay, seriously people.  One hundred percent means the whole thing.  Everything.  All of it.  Nothing left.

If you are asking for someone to give 110 percent, you are asking something mathematically impossible.

(Well, maybe you could use it as a description of what happens when people juice up on drugs.  “Use steroids!  They’ll give you 110 percent of your normal human ability!”  But that means if you are asking for 110 percent, you are asking your employees / students / fitness trainees to use drugs.)

A friend of mine told me that because I snark about this every time I hear it, I have successfully ruined an entire set of fitness videos for her.  To which I say: You’re welcome.  Sometimes we must sacrifice blithe entertainment for proper mathematics.  It’s the right thing to do.

7 thoughts on “Accuracy Pet Peeve of the Day: You Can’t Give 110 Percent

  1. InMyBook

    While it is understandable that a saying that so technically incorrect —

    7548754875487548754875487548754875487548754875487548754875487548754875487548754875487548po;l/ (Oops, sorry, the cat just leaped onto my keyboard! She does not give a rat’s a** about the pet peeves of mathematicians. Or maybe she agrees, and this is her opinion of the saying.)

    –would grate on the nerves of a mathematician, within the context of language and communication, doesn’t it fulfill the purpose of emphasizing that a person must give more effort than they feel is maximally possible? (After all, a neurologist might justifiable take issue with the term “grating on nerves.” Try to grin and bear it so your friend can get into shape and my cat will stop cursing. ^-^)

  2. slhuang Post author

    Well, the problem is, it’s an unobtainable goal! I don’t find that motivating; I just find it frustrating! ;)

    In all seriousness — I love hyperbole when used to great effect, but I feel like for most of the people who hear someone say, “Give 110%!” it doesn’t register as hyperbole. As in, they genuinely think they can (and think they do) push themselves to give more than 100%, which is not possible. And it grates on this mathematician’s nerves that people think it is! ;) I dunno, maybe I’m wrong, but that’s the impression I’ve always gotten.

  3. Leslie Nelson

    I always thought it was intended as hyperbole, you know don’t just give 100% but give 110% give more than your all. Of course, you are right though, it’s impossible so it’s really just silly. And what happens when that phrase becomes to common, then will people start asking for 150%???

    (I’m stalking your math posts, BTW.)

  4. slhuang Post author

    Hee. True, it probably could be considered hyperbole! I guess it’s the way it’s used that tends to bug me — I always get the sense that the people who enjoin others to give “110 percent” think that the person who fails to do so is somehow failing, whereas I think 98 percent is pretty darn good. ;)

  5. -5

    Apparently, somebody never did extra credit in school. One hundred percent is not necessarily the whole thing. It’s simply the standard of comparison, which is absolutely mathematically possible to exceed.

  6. slhuang Post author

    Ha! Of course! But it’s context-dependent, yeah? For instance, you can’t have a probability greater than 1. I’d argue you can’t “give” more than 100 percent, either, unless you start dosing up on stimulants . . . ;)

    (This post had a lot of tongue inserted in cheek, of course! :D)

  7. InMyBook

    This post and the comments raised some good points, and I do have increased awareness of language and how context shapes meaning.

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