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Thursday, October 14, 2010

You Are Entering A Dimension of Sight, Sound, And Math

The other day, Tracy and I became completely sidetracked from our discussion about how to tackle our next reference request. Neither one of us could determine the proper subject/verb agreement for a sentence using a phrase containing a percentage. I turned to the Credo Reference database for answers. (By the way, did you know that if you're a Mississippi resident, you have access to this awesome database for free through MAGNOLIA? Be sure to go check out what's available here!) Credo definitely came through:
Percent can take a singular or a plural verb, depending on the intended focus. Thus both Eighty percent of the legislators are going to vote against the bill or Eighty percent of the legislature is set to vote the bill down are possible, but in the second sentence, the group of legislators is considered as a singular body, not as a number of individuals. The word percent without a following prepositional phrase may take either a singular or plural verb; both are acceptable.
I love vague grammar that allows me to be footloose and fancy-free in determining verb endings. It makes me feel downright decadent!

In a completely unrelated math question, my neighbor, who, funnily enough, is also a reference librarian, and I were watching an old Twilight Zone episode called A Game of Pool last night. (It stars Jack Klugman before he was in The Odd Couple or Quincy M.E.--definitely worth checking out!) About five minutes into the episode, one of the men mentioned that he bought his pool cue for $600 sometime before he "died" in 1959. You just can't throw that kind of thing out into a room of reference librarians and not expect some feedback! We all know about how things used to cost less back in the dark ages and that the value of "x" amount of money in the 1950s would be a vastly different number today. Neighbor Reference Librarian and I both immediately determined that The Value of a Dollar needed to be consulted.

According to this old reference standby, this formula needed to be used:
$1 in 1955 equaled $7.75 in 2007.

2007 was "the most recent year with reliable comparisons" according to The Value of a Dollar. Plug in your numbers and presto!
$600 in 1955 equaled $4,650 in 2007.

Now that is one snazzy pool stick! Now, I wonder what percent of Rod Serling fans own pool cues and what ratio of them own pool sticks worth over, say, $1,000.... Too much?
"percent." The American Heritage Guide to Contemporary Usage and Style. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2005. Credo Reference. Web. 14 October 2010.
Derks, Scott. The Value of a Dollar. Amenia, NY: Grey House Publishing. 2009. Print.

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