Sunday, August 27, 2006

As little as six to eight

My local bathroom showroom tells me that a new bathroom can be in place in "as little as 6-8 weeks". A little Googling produces several pages of similar claims:

The good news is that you can slim down and shape up in as little as four to eight weeks.
A person can be in contact with one of these viruses and come down with the illness in as little as one to three days.
In many cases, recovery time can be as little as one to two weeks.
Frog eggs laid in warm water may develop in as little as one to two days.

Now surely these are rather odd statements. Each one states a minimum time in which something can be achieved, but then in the same breath mentions another time that is slightly longer. If you can slim down and shape up in four weeks, why mention eight?

My feeling is that the writers have confused two things. They want to impress us with a statistic about a surprisingly short time, so they start confidently with as little as. (A new bathroom in just six short weeks? That's amazing!) Then they remember the realistic distribution pattern, and think maybe they should indicate a range, perhaps because they are used to quoting one (delivery times can vary, you know what plumbers can be like, etc). The result doesn't make any sense.