March 12th, 2003


Fear Factorial

In one of his monologues, Jerry Seinfeld cites a survey where respondents ranked public speaking as their greatest fear "more often than death". He comments:

That's amazing! Think about it... that has to be a pretty strong fear. That means that if you have to go to a funeral, you're better off being the one in the casket, than the one giving the eulogy!

Toastmasters International, the speechifying floks, have often made reference to this finding. I've tried to find a citation for any such survey and have come across many very specific claims ("32%", "41%", "by a two-to-one margin, "many surveys", "in a magazine survey", etc.)... but not a single reference! I kept digging and got only this cogent commentary on why one should take group statistics with a grain of salt when they are given without context.

Is there a word for the fear of sloppy statistics?

Seriously, if anyone knows of a confirmed source for this alleged statistic on glossophobia, or has definite evidence that some particular instance is apocryphal or an unfounded urban legend, please let me know.

Babelfish of the month:
English: I offer a toast to the memory of Douglas Adams.
Spanish: Ofrezco una tostada a la memoria de Douglas Adams.
English: I offer one toasted to the memory of Douglas Adams.

(¡ay, me tuesta!)
  • Current Music
    Vivaldi - The Four Seasons: Spring