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.

“Asian” Semantic Hypocrisy

I had written on this before, but today I noticed that the Asian People page on Wikipedia has a not-worldwide-view flag, which I agree with because the article definitely has the tone of being predominantly written by an American.

The term Oriental is all but taboo in North America as somehow being offensive because it is Eurocentric, yet the same people who eschew it find nothing wrong with saying Middle-East. (One would think this attitude by Americans of obsequiousness to Orientals and abasing Middle-Easterners would make sense given the political climate and international relations, however as the article stated, the conference took place in 1968, long before either the U.S.’ insurmountable debt to China or its ablating relations with the Middle-East.)

That hypocrisy has always irritated me, especially since in North America, the term Asian is used pretty much exclusively to refer to the Far-East (which I suppose is, or at least should be as “offensive” as Oriental). This co-opting of the term that should refer to anyone from the largest continent on the world by one half of it (no matter how many people may be packed into it) is more offensive than any Eurocentricity since it is basically an affront to people from dozens of countries across the rest of the continent.

(Of course, I grew up and learned the names of the continents before the explosion of over-political-correctness that infected North America later on. Aside from the hypocrisy, personally I like the term Oriental because it has that exciting air of mystery whereas Asian is so bland.)

Missing English Words

The English language has it’s benefits such as being loosely ruled, which makes communication with it easy since the only important rule is that the other person understand what you say. Unfortunately, it also has it’s disadvantages as well. One such problem is that same fact that it’s rules are loosely enforced since it also makes it hard for foreigners to learn it. An even bigger shortcoming is the lack of vocabulary. Because it is a relatively young language, and despite the fact that it expands faster than any other language, there are still many words that other languages have but which English does not.

  • Many languages have different second person pronouns, including a formal (polite) and an informal, as well as a plural; English however has a single one “you”. The lack of a polite form is not too limiting, but the lack of a second person plural is extremely inconvenient. What’s interesting is that there are at least two words that have been created to fill that gap, ya’ll and you’s, but are considered to be illiterate and low-class.
  • Another word that Farsi has but English does not is mennat, that conveys the idea that one person is trying to take credit or pass off as a favor something that they did, when it is in fact something that they had to do anyway, something that is their fault in the first place, something minuscule, or other irrelevant action. It is sort of similar to the prank where you “save” someone’s life by for example pushing them off a ledge and immediately pulling them back.
  • Some languages—Farsi for one—have a word for the state of being where a person is angry with someone else and among other things, does not speak with them (ghar in Farsi). The closest analog in English is “giving the silent treatment” or “giving the cold shoulder—not quite as eloquent.

“Implicitly” Should Be “Explicitly”

Many people use the term “implicitly” to convey that there are no doubts, that something is unquestioningly true. Furthermore, this use of the term is actually an accepted definition to be found in dictionaries.

Unfortunately it is incorrect.

Implicitly is an adverb form of implicit. Implicit is an adjective meaning that something is implied, that it is understood without specifically being spelled out. If something is not specifically spelled out, if it is implied—and therefore inferred—then there is—by definition—doubt and question.

Explicitly on the other hand is by definition fully explained and expressed. To quote a couple of dictionary passages: “leaving nothing implied”, “readily observable”. The term “explicitly” properly entails the unquestioning, doubtless quality that the term “implicitly” is supposed to convey.

We should use the term EXPLICITLY in place of IMPLICITLY when we want to mean no doubt.

A Story About Me And I

Why do our English teachers insist we say “Bobby and I” instead of “me and Bobby”? Is it because the former does not roll off the tongue as nicely as the latter? Is it because the second one is grammatically correct? Is it because one makes you rich and famous while the other makes you sick and smelly? No.

There are two reasons we are told to use “X and I” instead of “me and X” and neither have to do with linguistics. First, they tell us to say it like that because they themselves were told to say it like that and they never bothered to ask why. This goes back all the way to the people who originated the phrases and is also a disturbing and dangerous trend that is very common; people are worse than sheep, they accept what they are told and pass it on whether it is right or not.

The other reason is in fact a result of the same problem as the first reason. It is because we are told not to be pompous. We are told to be modest and humble and to put others first. This is just a linguistic extension to the self-sacrifice complex that people are so obsessed with. The people who come up with these rules that subtly promote putting others before oneself do so because they expect that it will eventually pay off for them when dealing with others who end up following these rules.

The real question is do they use these rules religiously themselves.

Mmmm crow…

I Just Can’t Just (a.k.a. “I Can’t Just Can’t)

I just can’t believe how many people have difficulty with the word JUST. It is one of the most misused words there is. It is used incorrectly most often when used in combination with another word. Can’t is the most common one. This topic never came up in any of the linguistics courses I’ve taken so I figured I would take it upon myself to educate the masses. I have not done a full linguistic analysis to technically demonstrate the differences but trust me, they are different. For now I will try to highlight the differences by giving examples. One note, the ones I can remember right now seem to be negatives which may mean something or not. I’ll have to try to remember some others to check.


The phrase “can’t just” is very different from the phrase “just can’t”. Respectively, one is exclamatory, the other is explanatory. Saying “I can’t just walk in there.” means that you are capable of walking in there but it is not easy or appropriate for some reason. For example, you may need identification or you may not be dressed appropriately. It gives an feeling of resistance. Saying “I just can’t walk in there.” means that you are unable to walk in there even if it were possible. For example you may have a broken leg or the doors may be locked. It gives a feeling of helplessness.


The phrase “don’t just” is also different from the phrase “just don’t”. The former is a statement minimal requirements while the latter is a statement of fact. For example saying “You don’t just go out and buy a house.” means that you cannot just go out and buy a house because there is more to it than that, and that buying a house requires more work, planning, research, etc. beforehand. Saying “You just don’t buy a house.” is an unquestionable factual declaration indicating that you cannot or may not buy a house.

There’s several other combinations (like can’t and don’t) where just is usually used incorrectly but I cannot remember them right now. I’ll add them to this post as I do.


I’m only going to say this once. It’s “resumé”. Not résume, not résumé, not resume. I am sick and tired of people spelling it incorrectly. It’s gotten so bad that even dictionaries are listing multiple or even all variations because they are now accepted as de facto spellings. It’s ridiculous.

Resumé is from the French word résumer which means to summarize. Anyone who knows French knows that the accent on the e is a l’accent aigu. It makes the e below it sound like a long a as in dAy. While the French term puts the accent on the first e, it is not pronounced as -ay; instead that sound is achieved at the end with the -er. In English, we don’t pronounce -er as -ay, and so drop the r. If you are going to Anglicize the word, then it only makes sense to put the accent on the last e. Without any accents at all, resume is pronounced reesum, you know, as in “the break is over; resume your work”. Now, with this knowledge try this exercise: say the various variations of resumé, pronouncing correctly. You’ll find that the only one that sounds right is resumé. Raysumay is wrong, raysume is wrong, and reesume is wrong.

You may get away with saying rèsumé if you really want to give it that French accent, but unless you are French, then just write resumé.