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Up to X or more

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Joined: 17 Mar 2006
Posts: 712
Location: Oregon

PostPosted: Fri Sep 19, 2008 3:07 am    Post subject: Up to X or more Reply with quote

I've trained myself to notice this formulation:
Save up to 50% or more!

I remember it being mentioned in a book on
the general topic of "weasel words", and I know
I'm not the only one who finds it annoying.

In short, it can be seen as essentially meaningless.
Saying that some measure is "up to" X, "or more",
would mean that it could be less than X, or it could
be more than X. Interestingly, if one wanted to
be strict about it, the value X would actually be
excluded. So, to the extent that it has any meaning,
it would be "Save any percentage except 50%!"

It is a "sales" phrase, intended to excite a buyer, but
not really promising anything.

But looking around, I see it used in contexts and by people
where sales are not intended. Doctors, for instance
use this phrase.

So I looked a little deeper, and found some very nice
websites discussing it (up to 10 websites or more!),
and I'm including the best link below.

One poster analyzed it as though there were an asterisk
on the "or more" part. A footnote might explain the
special circumstances in which the "or more" might apply.
I think that this is about right. It is mostly used in the
the "weasel" sense, but it can have a legitimate
meaning, although one that is both vague and complex:
something like
1) Normally it is less than X.
2) It is likely to be fairly evenly distributed between 0 and X.
3) In some (rare) cases it may be more than X.

Just goes to show, if you work hard enough, nearly any bit of
nonsense can be found to have meaning.

Fun hunh?
(includes nice discussion of the sub-field of "pragmatics" known
as "speech act theory" and some great commentary)
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Joined: 20 Mar 2006
Posts: 1273
Location: Kent (East Hill), WA

PostPosted: Sat Dec 27, 2008 11:25 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The phrase takes on much significance for advertised bandwidth.

All ISPs for retail broadband will only state that they offer speeds "Up To..." some Mbps. That is because they may offer as little as 0 Mbps in cases where traffic is high. ISPs have counted on Web Browsing -- a stateless protocol -- as being the reason for Internet connectivity. Since a page is loaded, then read, the actual bandwidth used and amount of time used is small proportional to the "use" (viewing) of the content. Therefore they could sell much more bandwidth then they actually have, counting on the asynchronous use of their customers.

What ISPs didn't count on was the proliferation of streaming video which uses a stateful (connected) and constant protocol. With video, the line is always being used and if multiple people stream, the ISPs (and this includes the biggies like phone and cable companies) there will be severe degradation of line speed. The oft touted explanation is that people who actually use the high end of the "up to" spec are doing illegal downloading, but that is no longer true as legal streaming has far exceeded bit torrenting recently.

In order to actually get a fixed high rate of speed, one must purchase that bandwidth in the form of a T1 line. If you go around pricing T1 you will note they are far more expensive than a standard home service ($300 or more per month), but you will also note the speed is quite modest ( 1.5 Mpbs, no more than an entry level ADSL line). The difference is that a T1 doesn't offer "up to" 1.5 Mbps but 1.5 Mbps, plain and simple!
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