Friday, November 21, 2003
Pick a Number, Any Number
You know what annoys me? (This week, anyway.) The abuse and misuse of math, specifically in number metaphors.
Lately, I’ve been hearing an add for Seattle-area car dealership Carter Subaru which claims that they are in the Top Three (which means they are #3, because otherwise they would say they are #1 or #2) out of 500-and-some dealership teams in the nation in sales. All well and good. Then they go on to brag at least twice in the commercial about how proud they are to be in the top 99.5% of the sales teams in the nation. SCREEEECCHHH! Everybody except the bottom 3 or so would be in the top 99.5%; it’s nothing to be proud of. (What they really mean is that they are in the 99.5th percentile. Ah, the subtlety of a single syllable.)
Twice in the past month or so, I’ve seen misuse of “360 degrees”. Once was in The Stranger, comparing something to a drag queen making a 360-degree spin on one heel and going the other way, and once was in the Seattle Gay News (never noted for their skillful editing anyway) about Mary J. Blige’s latest album being a 360-degree change from her previous one. (Unfortunately, web searches won’t bring up either reference.) Girls, “360 degrees” is a full circle; you can’t go the other way out of a 360-degree spin, and a 360-degree change means that Blige’s latest album is no different from the previous one! (What they both meant, of course, was 180 degrees.)
In the same vein, but not using numbers per se, are Disneyland references to when they used to use ticket books for the rides rather than an all-day pass. (They changed around 1980, I think. I had been to Disneyland maybe a dozen times as a kid, and I recall being enthused about not having to have a ticket book when I went to Dollywood in 1979. We had a simple pass when we went to Disneyland again in 1982 or so.) The ticket books featured A Tickets, B Tickets, and so on up to E Tickets, each type being good for a different class of rides. The really cool ones (the Matterhorn Bobsleds and such) were E Ticket rides (and you never got enough of those tickets in the booklet!), while the A Tickets were the extremely tame rides like the King Arthur Carousel and Sleeping Beauty Castle. Today, 20-plus years from the end of the ticket books (and even a decade ago, only 10-plus years out, when I wrote one of my earliest letters of comment on the subject), people forget this and they assume that “A” was the best thing, perhaps like getting grades in school. And thus, when someone refers in print to some experience being “a real ‘A Ticket’ ride,” I can only roll my eyes and bitch quietly to myself.
Updated on November 23, 2003
Updated on October 13, 2010