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Old 2014-10-25, 20:22   #1
Jayder
 
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Default Your opinions on "x times less" and other errors

Quite frequently I read or hear something like, "Candidate Z received three times fewer votes than candidate Y." Even on these forums I see people use "a is x time less than b" all the time to express that "a is 1/xth the size of b", but I find this unintuitive and confusing. Though I don't totally agree with it, this site does give some arguments against using "times less": http://timesless.com/

Then we have issues like people mixing up "percent" and "percentage points". I hear this quite frequently, as well, especially on the news. This paper covers 7 common errors like this: http://web.augsburg.edu/~schield/Mil...igCompare3.pdf Numbers 5 and 6 on this list are also big pet peeves of mine because they are used frequently in normal conversation and the meaning is usually ambiguous.


Many here have an interest in both English and mathematics. What are your opinions on the use of "times less"? Acceptable, or gibberish? Are there any other errors like this that you find yourself annoyed at? Are you guilty of any of these errors?

Last fiddled with by Jayder on 2014-10-25 at 20:31
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Old 2014-10-25, 20:51   #2
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jayder View Post
Quite frequently I read or hear something like, "Candidate Z received three times fewer votes than candidate Y." Even on these forums I see people use "a is x time less than b" all the time to express that "a is 1/xth the size of b", but I find this unintuitive and confusing. Though I don't totally agree with it, this site does give some arguments against using "times less": http://timesless.com/
How would you reverse "B is 3 times larger than A", then (e.g. B=6, A=2)? "A is 3 times smaller than B" sounds quite natural to me, even more so than the probably-technically-correct "A is 1/3rd [the size] of B". Methinks this is being overly pedantic, especially when there are so many more grievous grammatical errors out there.

If you want to say it mathematically, "x times larger" means you multiply the number of the right by a factor of x, "x times smaller" is a factor of 1/x.

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Then we have issues like people mixing up "percent" and "percentage points". I hear this quite frequently, as well, especially on the news. This paper covers 7 common errors like this: http://web.augsburg.edu/~schield/Mil...igCompare3.pdf Numbers 5 and 6 on this list are also big pet peeves of mine because they are used frequently in normal conversation and the meaning is usually ambiguous.
Obligatory: http://xkcd.com/985/

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Are there any other errors like this that you find yourself annoyed at?
Flesh/flush is one. I hear people say "flush out" an idea when they mean "flesh", and I always think of the linked comic.
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Old 2014-10-25, 20:59   #3
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Flesh/flush is one. I hear people say "flush out" an idea when they mean "flesh", and I always think of the linked comic.
Uh, that one or that one?
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Old 2014-10-25, 21:12   #4
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Originally Posted by Jayder View Post
Many here have an interest in both English and mathematics. What are your opinions on the use of "times less"? Acceptable, or gibberish? Are there any other errors like this that you find yourself annoyed at? Are you guilty of any of these errors?
My big peeve is when reporters use any %age over 150. "There 500% more children crossing the street near the bus stop, now that local transit agency is giving them free rides on school days." "Americans have 1,000,000% more portable electronics than they did in 1948."
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Old 2014-10-25, 21:15   #5
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This is a case of "I know exactly what you mean but I'll pretend that I don't."

To be honest I have given a good deal of thought to the 2 is 3 times less than 6 thing, and while I realize it's gibberish, I don't hate people for saying it. I do my best to say 2 is 1/3 of 6.

(maybe you also have a pet peeve for people typing 2 is 1/3rd of 6)

I've also noted the incorrectness of 110 is 110% more than 100. That particular one never actually happens but as the numbers get bigger, there is a bigger chance of error: If I have 100 apples today and 6000 apples tomorrow, it's very tempting to say I have 6000% more apples (as opposed to 5900%).

I really like the 300 is THREE times AS MUCH AS 100 and 300 is TWO times MORE THAN 100. I'll try to teach it to everyone I can.

Last fiddled with by TheMawn on 2014-10-25 at 21:17
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Old 2014-10-25, 21:46   #6
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@Uncwilly, that's a good point.

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Originally Posted by Mini-Geek View Post
How would you reverse "B is 3 times larger than A", then (e.g. B=6, A=2)? "A is 3 times smaller than B" sounds quite natural to me, even more so than the probably-technically-correct "A is 1/3rd [the size] of B". Methinks this is being overly pedantic, especially when there are so many more grievous grammatical errors out there.

If you want to say it mathematically, "x times larger" means you multiply the number of the right by a factor of x, "x times smaller" is a factor of 1/x.
Perhaps I am being overly pedantic, but I thought it might be fun to discuss. I was also hoping to be dissuaded of my pedantry on this topic.

I would say, "A is equal to one third of B," or, "B is equal to three times A."

I would also argue that the word "larger" is not necessary. Multiplication is multiplication. It's either "2 times A" or ".5 times A". There is no "times larger", "times smaller", "times thinner", "times fatter".

I hope this makes sense: When talking about apples, when we say "b apples is x times a apples", this can mean that there are x amounts of a apples, and this is equal to b. 3 amounts (or groups) of 2 apples gives a total of 6 apples. What does "a apples is x times less than b apples" mean, then? Perhaps you can tell me, because I can't wrap my mind around it at present. The only way that I can think of is bastardising the meanings of "times" and "less" (times being multiplication, less implying subtraction), together "times less" to mean division of the the following number by the preceding. Division is the inverse of multiplication, but multiplication and subtraction do not equal division. Using only multiplication and subtraction and only the digits 6 and 2, can you give the answer 3?

Last fiddled with by Jayder on 2014-10-25 at 22:01 Reason: I cannot stop fiddling with my post.
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Old 2014-10-26, 00:00   #7
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Quote:
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Using only multiplication and subtraction and only the digits 6 and 2, can you give the answer 3?
How many times can you subtract 2 minions from an initial group of 6 minions until you have no minions remaining? Answer: 3 times. What do I win?
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Old 2014-10-26, 00:09   #8
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How many times can you subtract 2 minions from an initial group of 6 minions until you have no minions remaining? Answer: 3 times. What do I win?
I have the suspicion that you're joking, but "How many times can you subtract" is an operator that I didn't allow. That's called division. You've just stated it in different terms.
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Old 2014-10-26, 00:12   #9
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Quote:
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I have the suspicion that you're joking, but "How many times can you subtract" is an operator that I didn't allow. That's called division. You've just stated it in different terms.
In much the same way that "times less" is another way of stating division?

Languages are flexible things. There are no absolutes. It changes to the needs of the users. What did "gay" mean 60 years ago compared to today?
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Old 2014-10-26, 00:59   #10
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Quote:
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I have the suspicion that you're joking, but "How many times can you subtract" is an operator that I didn't allow. That's called division. You've just stated it in different terms.
a is x times less than b is the restatement of a-(x*b) == 0 only used subtraction and multiplication.

Last fiddled with by science_man_88 on 2014-10-26 at 01:01
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Old 2014-10-26, 01:10   #11
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a is x times less than b is the restatement of a-(x*b) == 0 only used subtraction and multiplication.
Perhaps you mean this: (a*x)-b == 0
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