Misused words

28 June 2017

Which word is most misused in election campaigns?  There are a number of strong contenders here; but I would like to nominate the word "average".  Next time you hear a politician (or a journalist) use this, ask them whether they're referring to the mean, median or mode.  It makes a big difference: given the highly skewed distribution of wealth in Britain, the mean will be much higher than either the median or the modal class.
 
Philip Hammond is perhaps the worst offender here: he continually refers to the "average" impact of progressive tax policies as if that was what most people would be paying - or what the middle-ranked person would be paying - when he's clearly using the mean.  Mathematical illiteracy: or deliberate deceit?
 
Mike Wright