Pet peeve: A fraction of its original size

Using “a fraction” to mean “a small amount” is a pet peeve of mine. I have a math background, therefore to me a fraction is “any numerical quantity that is not a whole number.”

Thus, in a forest of 10,000 trees, if you cut down one tree, the remaining forest is a fraction of its original size (9999/10000 is a fraction).

I know that “fraction” in general use actually means “a small amount.” Like I said, it’s just a pet peeve of mine. :p


16 thoughts on “Pet peeve: A fraction of its original size

    • Maybe if the classics major often had to read manuscripts by other writers who used “iota” in that fashion, yes. :)

      There’s a word, “small,” that you can put in front of the word “fraction” that negates the peeve and still preserves the intended meaning of “fraction.” Which is what I usually add to the text. :)

      • True story: GenCon 2005 I brought the Dark Elf Trilogy with me to read. I read book 1 on the plane on the way out, book 2 while there, and book 3 on the plane on the way back. Do you have ANY idea how many times Salvatore used the word sublimate???? “The hunter sublimated his rage.” AAAAAARRRRRGGGGH! Sublimate has a very specific definition to me, and EVERY time I read it (which must have a dozen times in each book) I got thrown out of the story.

  1. Technically, if you planted another tree in the forest, wouldn’t that be a fraction of it’s original size also (10001/10000)? An improper fraction, but still a fraction….

  2. I’m fine with fraction, but the one that gets me is ‘Decimate’. Somewhere along the way the simple concept of ‘remove a tenth’ got turned into ‘remove most’.

    I guess they figured a tenth was a fraction, so they were just reducing it to a fraction of its original size.

  3. I hate when people use “decimate” to mean anything OTHER than killing precisely one in ten. Decimate is, by definition and etymology, even MORE specific than “fraction,” so this should annoy you too. LOTS.

  4. Most actual mathematical definitions of a fraction also include the integers, so you could just leave all the trees alone and the forest would be a fraction of its original size.

    I’ll get my coat :-)

  5. Back in grad school for philosophy is seemed everyone had some hot button like this. For one prof it was “quality”, as in “This is a quality product.” High quality? Low quality? He would compare it to saying this apple has color – it’s an utterly useless statement without that extra adjective in there.

    The other one I remember was a fellow grad student who used to literally yell at the TV when a sports announcer said that there’s no score for a game. He would shout “There is a score for the game! It’s 0 to 0, you idiot!!!”

  6. This is the opposite of my pet peeve – when marketers exclaim that their new product is a quantum leap above a previous version. Really? It’s the smallest sub atomic particle better than before?

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