Dear X-Factor Contestants, you cannot give more than 100% effort!

I’m probably going to seem like a rabid pedant, but this is one of my major bugbears. While watching X-factor this weekend young crooning contestant Ray promised to give 210% and later Robert promised 150%. Does this mean Ray is going to put out more effort than Robert? No, it means both of them are talking nonsense.

It is impossible to give more than 100% effort.

101% means you are making an effort beyond your actual capacity. Even if you are making more effort than was previously possible for you, then in fact your ‘effort output’ has increased, but you’re still giving 100% (though an effort level you may previously have described as 80% is now recalibrated as a 79% effort!).

Once we uncap the limit on effort, and permit beyond 100%, then watch the inflation effect, it’ll be 1000% effort or a million, or a billion or a googleplex percent effort – where’s the cap? It is meaningless. Of course you could say, I’ll give 210% of my usual average effort levels, yet this too is rather strange, and means the effort you’re giving now simply depends on your past effort levels, so a lazy devil giving 300% is making less effort than a constantly committed person at 80%.

Now you see what nonsense I’m talking too? That’s why it’s my bugbear, it doesn’t make any sense; we’re trading in the use of mathematics for nonsense. Millions of youngsters are hearing this arithmetical baloney as if it’s the norm and that does us no service. While I too, just like the X-kids, am deliberately exaggerating to make a point, a little thought about the language of mathematics goes a long way; the misunderstanding of numbers is one of the greatest contributors to debt and money problems in the UK.

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