Time to Upgrade that “One in a Million” Expression

A popular expression used in English is “one in a million”. It can be used to describe a lot of things, from events to phenomena to people, for their rarity. However, with the world population at 7 billion these days, if describing people, it’s no longer that much of a compliment.

Once upon a time, when the world population was far less than 7 billion, one in a million really meant something. It implied you were rare, though not unique, but rare enough there weren’t many others like you on the Earth. But among over 7 billion people, someone who is “one in a million” would be like at least 7,000 others.

Imagine if you told that rare person “you’re like only 7,000 other people on Earth”.

Or how’s about “there’s only 7,000 other people who can rival you on this planet”?

Do you think they’d be all that flattered? Probably not.

Even if you went by countries, it’s not that flattering. You’re like “one of the top 35 singers in Canada”, or you’re “one of the top 315 dancers in the US”.

So next time you really want to flatter someone with a “probability comparison”, don’t go with “one in a million” unless you really meant it that they are only that rare, but not anywhere near that rare. No.

I recommend go with “one in a billion“.

At least then, there’d only be 6 others of their calibre on the planet. That might not be all that flattering, still, but far better than 7,000.


3 thoughts on “Time to Upgrade that “One in a Million” Expression

  1. Wow, shit lasts forever on the internet! Anyway, how the hell I ended up here I cannot tell you but I started at 538.com, reading about Super Bowl LI. Which I guess probably explains a lot, now that I thik about it. Anyway (again), my question is: Should we not simply say, “One in seven billion”?

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