Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Give it more, more.. more

BBC announces the death of 100%:

"Before the days of linguistic inflation, 100% was considered enough. But no longer, says Chris Bowlby, in a personal reflection on how language has changed.

How committed are you to finishing this article? 110%? Maybe 150%? Or, if you're in the US, perhaps 1,000% is what you need to say to show you really care.

There once was a time when 100% really meant something. That was the top figure you could commit, or the maximum you were allowed for a mortgage, 100% of your house's value.

But then came linguistic - as well as mortgage - inflation. It began in a very modest, British kind of way. Susie Dent, a writer and language expert, has been delving in the old dictionaries and thinks the breach may have come in the early 1980s when British ice-dancing stars were hoping for Olympic glory.

"The first citation comes from a biography of Torville and Dean. It said they were going to put in nothing less than 101%, so possibly that's when things began to edge upwards".

Susie Dent says it has all been part of a "bigging up" of language. Think of the way we say superhero instead of just hero, and feel the need to add "├╝ber" or "mega" to make words sound more impressive.

Percentages inflated under the same kind of pressure. And poor old 100% was left looking, she says, "a bit paltry".

In the US, it's claimed the going rate for some job applications is to promise no less than 1,000% commitment.

But could all this be changing? Employers are becoming less and less impressed by job candidates whose inflated promises seem out of all proportion to their actual qualifications and performance.

So a return to 100% as a kind of limit might well be popular with those bewildered by the way we've been playing fast and loose with our percentages. "

Listen to the whole thing here.

1 comment:

Eve said...

Being American and living in the US, I have never heard "1,000%" but I do hear "110%" a lot.