“More” Is Less

I don’t normally post this type of rant on the blog. But, it’s a bit long for Facebook, and it does deal with some kid-tangential things. So…

Summer School is in session. I need some help. And, I have a lot of teacher and science/math-oriented friends. Before my brain atrophies any further, I need a grammarian and a mathematician to talk me down from the ledge. Also, I have a feminist or two to keep me on track.

Not your usual vacation photo post, I know. But, here’s a real-life exercise that is killing me. Give me 10 minutes. (Get a cup of coffee.)

Following the fantastic USA Women’s Soccer World Cup victory, I saw the following headline: “U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”

Politics aside, I have two problems: one grammatical and one mathematical.

1) Grammar: This headline is at best inartfully worded, and at worst, intentionally confusing.

When one says that something is “4 times” something else, you immediately think more. But then you have this big fat “less” in there, and now it is reductive. How contrarian of you. You’re beginning to sound like me.

“U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”

Is this because of our penchant for hyping things to make them sound grander and more luxurious and glamorous when we actually mean they are smaller? “More” is less.

More is less.

Take the scenario: The 50-year-old Director married the 25-year-old Supermodel. Would you say…

– She is half his age.
– He is twice as old as her. Or…
– She is two-times younger than he is.

Who talks like that?

(And, of course, this is a trick question, because the Director was a woman. And the Supermodel was a man. It’s my scenario, so deal…) But, you get the point.

“U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”

I think I know what this headline writer meant (or I don’t, see below), but wouldn’t it be easier to simply say:

“U.S. Women Champs Earn One Quarter of Men’s Winnings.”

Wouldn’t that just be clearer? Why try to inflate things in a smaller direction?

But, here’s where I have a bigger problem with the numbers…

“U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”

2) Mathematics. Is this in a Common Core question, because if it is, it is a bullshit, sloppy damn question? And, I totally expect to find it on my 6th grader’s state test.

“U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”

“4 Times Less” is not an animal that lives in nature. Times = more, Less = Less. Combining the two is a bit like oil and water. They don’t mix. By nature.

And, this plays out as… Should I grab an abacus?

Let’s say the men earn 4 Units. And the women earn 1 Unit. 4 -1 = 3.

The difference between the Men and Women is 3 units.

Where does “4 times less” factor in? 4 times “what,” exactly? Isn’t there a coefficient? A constant? A Pythagorean or something?

It is a quarter of the men. But how is it 4 times less?

Math people, explain. What am I misunderstanding? (And, I’m not afraid of decimals.)

“U.S. Women Champs Earn 4 Times Less than Men”

But, pay the ladies. Times 5. Sounds fair. I mean, they actually WON the damn thing.

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