Whatever happened to 100%?

Harken back with me, gentle reader. Harken back to a time when the most you could give was 100%. Remember those days? When the most you could give was the most you could give? Those days are gone now. Now you have to give more than is possible.

While we’re living in the fucking past (3000 years of beautiful tradition,) remember back before every commercial on TV was about auto insurance? DVR’s actually make the insanely high percentage of these commercials even more obvious. The worst ones are the “Now What?” ones where they show a bunch of other people being responsible for huge damage to your car and then ask if you have good insurance. You’ve seen the one where the painters are on the side of a glass building with open paint cans(!) and the harness comes loose and spills paint on your crappy yellow “sports” car and then it gets hit by a firetruck and a giant foot falls out of the sky and smushes it. How is any of that your fault? Who gives a shit what insurance you have? We all know who was at fault here, so what the fuck are you talking about?

Remember when people could say “method” instead of “methodology” ?

Remember when people could say (the correct) “I couldn’t care less!” instead of the meaningless “I could care less!” Oh, could you? Go right ahead! Me, I could not care less than I do right now.

Which brings me to my point. Here’s my point, dude.

Think critically. Think about what you do and say. Do your best to notice your habits and break them. Speaking and acting out of habit keep you in a rut. Oh, and do what your parents did: get a job, sir!

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  1. 100% is just another way to write the number 1. 110% is just another way to write the number 1.1. Saying that you gave 110% is a completely reasonable way to say that you gave 1.1 times your normal effort (which is 10% more than you usually do). Of course, when people say that, they’re usually estimating! Phrases like this often impart a useful connotation that aids in communication.

    Methodology has been used as a a synonym for method for a long time now. In fact, most if not all of the examples of use from The Oxford English Dictionary from 1902 onward take that form:

    1902 Dial (Chicago) 32 79/1 Bibliographical methodology (i.e. methods of compilation and recording). 1932 W. E. D. ALLEN Hist. Georgian People vii. 91 Alp-Arslan and his commanders were tacticians who evolved a new methodology in mediæval Asiatic war. 1944 F. KAUFMANN Methodol. of Social Sci. p. vii, A reconsideration of the problem how the logical analysis of scientific procedure (methodology) is related to deductive logic. 1960 Amer. Speech 35 212 The authors tell too little about their methodology. 1970 O. DOPPING Computers & Data Processing xxii. 343 So far, what we have considered is a straight simulation which does not give rise to any methodology difficulties. 1972 Jrnl. Social Psychol. 87 127 None of these methodologies have been extended into the realm of applied psychology. 1977 Dædalus Summer 54 The quest for science has led to a..largely futile battle of methodologies, in answer to a third question: Whatever it is we want to study, how should we do it? 1989 Brit. Jrnl. Philos. Sci. 40 452 In Carnap’s terms, logic is rules or syllogism whereas methodology is theory or principles guiding the application of those rules. 1993 Co-op Connection Jan. 10/5 Consumers must demand labeling and independent safety testing using methodology that consumers can trust.

    I think that methodology is useful in communication for connoting a more sophisticated or nuanced method.

    According to this article from World Wide Words, people in the U.S. have been using the phrase “I could care less” since the 60’s. It’s fairly obvious that the twist from “I couldn’t care less” originates from a sarcastic tone that may or may not be stressed in contemporary usage. The author also discuses a linguistic theory that the twist of phrase originated from the New York Jewish Yiddish speaking community, who were accustomed to similar phrases.

    I agree that commercials like you describe are over the top, as there’s no way a fire department or someone with a large godly foot wouldn’t have liability insurance. But if someone without liability insurance does destroy your expensive car, you’ll probably be out of luck if you don’t have insurance, and good insurance would be nice bonus.


  2. Hi Glenn,

    As usual, you’re so busy defending the status-quo that you’ve completely missed my point.

    Your point seems to be: People in the past misused these words so much so that dictionaries (etc) changed because the misuse was so pervasive it became the norm.

    Since you used a blockquote, I will too:

    What do you think the Devil is going to look like if he’s around? Nobody is going to be taken in if he has a long, red, pointy tail. No. I’m semi-serious here. He will look attractive and he will be nice and helpful and he will get a job where he influences a great God-fearing nation and he will never do an evil thing. ..he will just bit by little bit lower standards where they are important. Just coax along flash over substance… Just a tiny bit. And he will talk about all of us really being salesmen. And he’ll get all the great women.

    My point, dude, is that we don’t have to be stupid. We can think critically about what we hear (I used an example of stupid auto-insurance ads) and what we say.

    Now, sadly, I’ll talk about some of the points you made even though they don’t have really anything to do with the point I was trying to make. “Sadly” because these examples that I gave are examples of a lack of critical thinking, not because definitions change over time.

    When someone says “I gave 110%” or “150%” or even “10,000%” (as I’ve heard) they’re not saying “I gave more than my usual effort.” You know this. If someone were to say “I gave 100%” they’d obviously be saying “I gave it all that I could give,” otherwise they’d simply say “I gave it my usual effort.”

    When people say “I gave [over 100%]” they’re doing two things: firstly, they’re parroting what they’ve heard other people say and they’re not thinking about it at all [this is the real crux of my point] and secondly, they’re using a number larger than 100 as a form of exaggeration/intensification. It’s like repeating the word “really” and it sounds just as dumb.

    As to what you think methodology is useful for, that’s a wholly different argument (and the one I think you were thinking I was giving). By opening words up to mean whatever the hell you want them to mean, you’ve eliminated the core function of language.

    If you think “methodology” means “a sophisticated/nuanced method” while most other people think it just means “method” (which seems to be my experience with people misusing the word) then you’ve created a gap in language that makes it that much more difficult for you to communicate with others. Isn’t it difficult enough already?

    You wouldn’t seriously suggest that just because people started doing it a long time ago, we should start using “utilize” instead of “use” (like a certain DBA and a certain project manager I know) do, would you? No, you wouldn’t because it’s silly and it makes them sound silly. I’m sure your books will say it’s acceptable, but just because something is acceptable doesn’t mean we should do it.

    And as to “I could care less,” I can’t count the number of times I’ve corrected people only to have them argue with me only to then realize wtf they’re saying and say “wow I’ve always say that wrong.” Again, my point is that you should think about the things you hear and say and do. But if you want to have this other argument, I’ll say that, as above, having “could” be synonymous with “couldn’t” serves no purpose as far as I can see other than to defend the status-quo and say that it’s acceptable for people to be stupid parrots. Further, the anti-purpose that it serves is to make language lose even more meaning and make communication more difficult.

    In the past when we’ve had this argument that is other than the one I was trying to make in my blog post, we get to this point in the argument and you say “but we’re not all speaking Old English!” And you’re right, of course, we’re not. I’m fine with language evolving. I don’t feel good about language devolving because stupid people misuse words.

    While it’s almost certainly true that half or more of the words I’ve used in this response have had alternate or even opposing meanings in the past doesn’t mean that anyone who is living, educated and thinking won’t understand them. In other words, I can’t help when I was born. Were I able to help it, I might well chose to live in an older time. I know that of the books I read, the older they are, the more they’re able to say with fewer words. That’s probably because those words had, ya know, static meanings.

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