img.wp-image-4136 { padding: 15px; } [caption id=”attachment_4136” align=”alignright” width=”227”]Yes, it's coincidence Yes, it’s coincidence[/caption]

Every few weeks, this bit of motivational excrement does the rounds on twitter (I saw it here, but it comes around from all sorts of sources).

For a start, what’s with the per cents? Per cents of what? You can’t just take a number that’s close to a hundred and stick a % on it and make sense - especially when it’s easy to find words - such as ‘bullshit’ (103) or ‘poppycock’ (120) - that come out as more than 100.

More to the point, there’s no reason to expect a word with a score of 100 to have anything to do with success. There are loads of them, from the really unwise (asbestos, quicklime, headbutts, firebombing, tetanus) to the educationally ill-advised (bandwagons, gobbledegook, haranguing, inanities, whiskey) to the absurd (piggybacks, dinginess, masochism, semaphore) and some - a few - that might work: numeracy, analysis, colleagues, culture, discipline.

Misapprehensions and mischievousness, meanwhile, both give you 200.

Some actual maths

If you pick letters at random from the alphabet, you’d expect each letter to score about 13.5 points, with a variance of 56.25 (a standard deviation of 7.5). So, an average seven-letter word would score around 94 or 95 points, with a variance of 393.75 - or a standard deviation of 19.8, meaning that a score of 100 is not at all unusual ($z = \frac{-5.5}{19.8} = -0.277$). It’s not at all unusual for an 8-letter word, either, with a mean of 108 and a standard deviation of about 21 ($z = 0.377$).

This relies on the assumption that letters in words are uniformly distributed, which they’re not (E, for example, shows up more often than X) - I’d expect the mean value to be slightly lower than 13.5, and the standard deviation to be a bit bigger - but in any event, 100 points is not an unusual score for a word of moderate length.

This awfully (100) selective (100) use of words is not reputable (100), according to this researcher (100) - it’s inapplicable (100) and therefore (100) discredited (100) and deserves someone immature (100) like me to excoriate (100) it.