Friday, September 16, 2016

Pecentage points?

From the linguistic pet peeve department: "percentage points". WTF happened to poor old percents?! They just slap ten extra characters that don't change a damn thing. Why? To sound more important? BTW, the word "percent" and the corresponding sign "%", like many English words, have a root in Latin. The original "per centum" (by the hundred) was written down as 1/100 then abbreviated "p/c" which over time became "%". While we are at it, check out promille (1/1000 - p/m - ‰). Ancient Romans were apparently much better at word economy than we are. Edit: I learned the true meaning of "percentage point" since I wrote the above post and I have to admit that I was wrong. Strictly speaking, if something grew from 50% to 60% it grew by 10 percentage points. If it grew by ten percent, it would grow only to 55%. I still think that this one of the rare cases where language purity should be set aside. Average person neither knows nor cares about the difference (it took me long enough to know, even though I cared :) ).