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Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Expressions I don't like

1. "Only a fraction". This one annoys me on many levels, since it's mathematically meaningless. 1/1 is a fraction, as is 33/22 or 7/5. Even in its typical use, meaning "less than the whole", it's quite unhelpful since 999/1000 is also a fraction, so it's quite correct to say "only a fraction of Indians live in India" since some Indians live in other countries, although over a billion Indians actually do live in India. This expression is used when someone wants to sound mathematical but can't be bothered to look up the numbers. At least say something with a pretense of precision, like "a small percentage".

2. "Spiraling", meaning "going up". This is usually used in reference to some economic indicator, ie "inflation is spiraling". It's either going up or going down, but it's definitely not spinning - although it's likely that politicians will be doing plenty of spinning around it. Even a more generous definition, ie "spiraling out of control", is derived from observing out of control airplanes crashing _down_ after they've been rendered inoperable somehow. Please say "going up".

3. "Hello?", said in a singsong voice with a trailing inflection, followed by some statement. This is used when Person A is calling Person B an idiot for neglecting some detail that Person A regards as profoundly important. I've rarely heard this expression used when Person A isn't the actual idiot...

I'll doubtless think of more...

very similar to the "only a fraction" is "only pennies per day". even the national debt could be measured in pennies per day, but that doesn't mean it's small.
My most loathed:
"[s]he died what [s]he loved doing"

and b/c I'm really not that morbid:

"it is what it is"
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