For the past while now, I’ve been hearing a lot of people on television nagging about when someone quotes the line about giving 110% or something similar. It’s happened numerous times in the past year or so where someone would nitpick that “more than 100% is by definition impossible”.

This is absurd. If amounts more than 100% were impossible, then how does tax work? If an item is $10, but tax is 20%, you have to pay 120% of the item’s price, or $12. Is it impossible to pay more than 100% of the price for the item? The government certainly doesn’t think so.

Likewise, if there are twice as many sales as last year, then sales are up 100%, to 200% of what they were last year. Companies regularly report sales higher than 100%. Are they performing magic? Of course not.

Obviously amounts higher than 100% are indeed possible, so what are people nagging about? One explanation could be that tangible, physical objects are limited. For example, if you have 10 boxes, then you can give no more than 100% of them away. How could you give away 150%? Simple: debt. You give all 10, and owe five more. Another explanation is that you can only do up to 100% of your ability and not beyond that. However even that is not a valid reason to complain because you can indeed give more than all of your ability sometimes; just ask anyone who got a surge of adrenaline and performed the impossible (like the classic example of the parent lifting a car off of their child or running faster than they ever have).

Granted, it can end up turning into an argument about semantics, but nagging that more than 100% is impossible is pedantic at best and generally foolish.

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