Friday, January 18, 2013

Giving it 110%

It's a common phrase "I'm going out there are giving it 110%" used particularly in sports and certain types in business and is of course wrong. If you're giving something your best effort that equates to 100%; if you have more left to give weren't giving it your best effort. However it seems that some therefore assume that you can't have more than 100%.

I just read a comment along the lines of "What's the big deal [something else] is 10000% more interesting" a reply followed that this person obviously didn't understand percentages. Uh-huh okay let's try this:

Imagine I have a bottle of water the volume of which is 100ml. I then add 50ml of water to it. What percentage of water do I have?

The answer is 100% - I have all the water. But what's the percentage of water now compared to the percentage previously? I can't just say they're both 100% as that would imply no change in volume. I had 100ml and I've added 50ml which is 50% of that original 100ml so that's 50% more. If I added 100ml that'd be 100% more; 200ml would be 200% more.

Let's try that with how interesting something is:

Something is interesting (100%); something else is twice as interesting. How much more interesting is it - 100% more interesting. Three times as interesting - 200% more interesting. 10,000% more interesting 101 times as interesting.

The key is the word "more" when used in conjunction with a concept to which "more" can be added. Again - If I'm give something my best I have no more to add so I can't go above 100% unless I take performance-enhancing drugs in which case I could indeed give it 110% with that added 10% being at tenth more than my unenhanced state. Which makes me wonder about those sportspeople who do use this phrase :-)