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Picture of BobHale
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I may consider myself a champion of "usage trumps all" but there is one construction that I always have trouble with. It can be seen in this headline from the Express and Star - "Lee Rigby charity fraudster ordered to pay back seven times less than he took" I have trouble with it because I can never make sense of it. He stole 20,250 and had to pay back only 3,247. Clearly they mean he had to pay back one seventh (it's actually closer to one sixth but let's disregard the maths error.) The trouble is I can only interpret those words this way. Seven times 20,250 is 141,750 and 141,750 less than 20,250 is minus 121,500 so that means they PAID HIM 121,500.
Now that may be more about maths than English but the "x times less" construction always makes me wince and I wish people would use something a bit more logical.
(Even I have my pet peeves. I keep them in a cage in the spare room.))


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
Posts: 9421 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
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It's gibberish to me. I'd not seen such a construction, and am baffled by it.
 
Posts: 6172 | Location: Muncie, IndianaReply With QuoteReport This Post
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Picture of BobHale
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I posted it in a couple of other places and am surprised that quite a few people haven't seen it. It's a fairly common construction in my experience.
Just google "times less" (with the quotes included) to find dozens of people discussing it. To find examples other than the discussions you will need to scroll down a bit.

Here are a couple of exaxmples

Haim fired agent for being paid 10 times less than male artist (BBC.com)

Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health services than Whites.

E-bikers sweat three times less than regular bike riders, finds ...

Hospital Care '3,000 Times Less Safe Than Air Travel,' Says TJC Chief


"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
 
Posts: 9421 | Location: EnglandReply With QuoteReport This Post
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I agree with you, Bob, and I commented on this type of construction in 2012. At that time only Richard English seemed to agree with me. You understood me, but goofy clearly didn't. Here's a link I posted then:

Technical Writing Tips for the Oil Patch
quote:
Five Times Lower / Less / Smaller
How can something be five times lower, or five times less, or five times smaller than something else?

Clearly, the people who write such expressions do not understand fractions, decimals, or percentages (although they might comprehend factors or orders of magnitude). Petroleum engineers, however, should exhibit ample evidence in their writing that they eat fractions, decimals, and percentages for breakfast. Therefore, they should never use these expressions, lest someone think the other numbers in the document equally fuzzy.

In the engineering world, five times larger means 5× or “multiply by 5.” If X is smaller than Y by a factor of five, then X = Y/5. That means X is one-fifth the size of Y, or 20% of the size, which translates to 80% smaller or a value that is 80% lower. Use those expressions instead to ensure clarity and give the impression that your number sense is 100%.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: tinman,
 
Posts: 2878 | Location: Shoreline, WA, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
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I agree with all of the above. It’s imprecise language. OTOH I assume that I know what was intended, and that “x times as small as” meant “one xth of”...with full cognizance of the risk incurred when you ASSUME.

Equally irritating to me is the misuse of “300% more“ for “3 times as much,” which is only 200% more.

/prescriptivist
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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I haven't seen that usage before, with the exception of the example of "Asian Americans are three times less likely to seek mental health services than Whites." A very strange example is that hospital care is 3,000 times less safe than air travel. Geez!

I agree that it is imprecise and confusing.
 
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I infer two things from Kalleh's post: Asian Americans aren't as crazy as the rest of us, and all hospitals should fly.

Geoff, who is 99 and 44/100th percent poo
 
Posts: 6172 | Location: Muncie, IndianaReply With QuoteReport This Post
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Kinda reminds me of the fun movie that's out now "Crazy Rich Asians!"
 
Posts: 24735 | Location: Chicago, USAReply With QuoteReport This Post
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:
Kinda reminds me of the fun movie that's out now "Crazy Rich Asians!"


I take it you saw it and really enjoyed it? What's it about?
 
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