Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Quantitative Ambiguity

For fun one day at work, I started putting together a list of (mostly) vague quantitative terms. Here is our list thus far:

one
a couple
a few
some
a bunch
a majority
a lot
a whole lot
a slew
most
all

Somewhere in this list would be other terms like half, super-majority, and bazillion, but I think you get the drift.

In any case, I was listening to the radio this morning, and a reporter was asking a political strategist about domestic wiretapping. The conversation went like this:
"A recent survey showed 54% of Americans against this, and 42% in favor of it. Since a most of the public is against this..."

Most? Look, I would accept over half, a majority, more are opposed, etc., but most? I just don't see it.

5 comments:

Kim said...

I don't see it either. It is a majority in the numerical sense of the word, but in practical terms, it looks like close split.

BugBlaster said...

I think of something like 75% or greater when I hear "most".

BugBlaster said...

Oh, and thanks for adding me to your links!

Daniel said...

Most is a funny word, it can be used as
a noun (I have the most!), and
an adjective (I am the most foolish!), and an
adverb (that was most interesting)
an improper adverb (I'll do most anything), and even a
pronoun (Most know better...)

In the context, the fellow is using it as an adjective (describing something having "most of" something else) to describe how the majority of Americans were against such and such - and this is an accepted usage.

If we neglect one or more ways in which a word is used, then even a correct usage can seem "off" to us.

Hemsch said...

One of my favs is 'vitural cornicopia'

The whole point of what the guy was trying to do was create public opinion instead of report it.

Don't forget we are all just lemmings....