Are there words or phrases that bug you when you hear them used? I don’t mean expressions like, “like,” “you know,” “so anyway…,” or any other patter that occurs during casual communications. No, I’m talking about vague terminology and euphemisims used so often in the media and by the government that it makes one wonder if all of them are totally unaware of how annoying that is to the vast majority of people.
Take vast majority for instance. What percent constitutes a vast majority? I tried to find out by Googling the exact phrase, “vast majority” and examining some of the 18.6 million results.
One article I found in the first ten hits reports that it is 84%.
Another, from The Department of Homeland Security, uses the term to represent the fraction 24/27, which translates into 88.9%.
And this poll, from four years ago, puts it at 77%.
Nowhere did I find a vast majority translating into more than 90%. Of course, if you have results such as 98% or 99%, you headline your article with the exact figures because those are impressive numbers. Numbers like 77% or 84% are not so impressive to me, because when I was in high school, anything under 93% correct on a test was not an “A”. A vast majority should be impressive (at least as impressive as an “A” on a test) which probably explains why the term is so over-used. The vast majority of people want to impress the vast majority of the rest of us.
Perhaps you have received one of those “Bush-isms” emails or seen a “Bush Quotes” website, or even listened to the guy making speeches (an activity that I find repulsive, yet oddly fascinating). Then you will probably recall him using that phrase at least more than once. My favorite is, “The vast majority of our imports come from out of the country.” Well yes, since all of our imports come from out of the country, that would make it 100%, which to me is truly a vast majority.
I guess I’m just sick of hearing it. I know I’m not alone in my feelings about this phrase. The vast majority of people probably hate it too.