Music/Popular Culture

Indie math?

Ever run across a phrase that causes you to back up and re-read, then re-read again, trying to figure out what exactly the writer meant to say?

Consider this sentence, taken from the bio of The Stratford Four at

Alt-popsters the Stratford 4 consists of members Chris Streng (vocals, guitar), Jake Hosek (guitar), Andrea Caturegli (drums), and Sheetal Singh (bass) — and although the quartet is based in San Francisco, almost half of their members hail originally from Seattle.

Is it me, or is there something suspicious about the math in the last half of the sentence? There are four of them, and “almost half” are from Seattle. So that would be … one, right? So, what’s the rhetorical goal in making 25% sound like 50%? Is Seattle that much cooler than San Francisco?

Darned kids. In any case, they’re a really good band, and I envy those of you who can read right over that sentence without letting it eat 15 minutes of your life when you’re supposed to actually be working.

7 replies »

  1. Nice. I’d have no complaints if it had been a quintet – “almost half” would then be 2, or 40%, and that’s OK. But this is just an exercise in bad rhetoric. Gack.

  2. Have you reviewed the band’s background? Integral math often breaks down with respect to bands and their necessarily transient identities. If someone asked me where I’m from, it’d take a while to answer. But yeah, I’m probably giving the writer too much credit.

  3. I’m no math major, but even I can see there’s something wrong with that calculation.

    I do a simple comparison with our band – Backyard Tea – two of our members were from Eden, NC (Mike, me) – two of our members were from Danville, VA – Tony, Steve.

    Using my vast knowledge of percentages from Mrs. Davis’s class, I can determine that 50% of us were from Eden, 50% from Danville.

    Notice there’s no “almost.” As one of my high school math teachers, Coach Gregg, told me when I tried to suggest some ambiguity in a word problem in algebra class, “Booth, there’s no ‘almost’ in math!”

    These whippersnappers need a math class with Coach Gregg.

  4. Fikshun writes:

    Integral math often breaks down with respect to bands and their necessarily transient identities.

    The obvious question then: Were they once the Stratford Five and when they lost a member forgot to edit their entire entry?

    More disturbing — boy, is that a Waspy-sounding name. (I think of the Stratfords in England and Connecticut.)

  5. There is an almost in math. It is the sign for “approximately equal to” which is a tilde over the top of a line.

    But that wouldn’t be necessary in this case since there are hard numbers. This is like the Tuscaloosa News reporter who wrote that “about 128 students graduated from Shelton State Community College”. Either there were 128 or there was a different number…no “about”. Very sloppy reporting.