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My Robot Is Pregnant » a cry for help

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tough guy poetry and manly stories of loneliness
all contents copyright Jon Rolston 2004, 2005, 2006

April 5, 2012

a cry for help

Welcome to Mixed Nuts

If the ad says, “1 in 5 Americans is disabled,” am I wrong to call bad grammar and not give any money?

At the grocery store there’s a tip cup for the crippled, or rather, disabled. Crippled would be a vulgar phrase. But it provided alliteration.

The jar had a fancy image and that quote up there. Shouldn’t it be,”1 in 5 Americans ARE disabled”?

Where’s one of my old English teachers? Don’t any of them care I blog?


  1. The number 1 is the subject so the grammar is correct as written.

    Comment by Jim — April 6, 2012 @ 5:57 am

  2. “One are the loneliest number that could ever be.”
    1 out of 2 junk shop owners is in need of a promotional video.

    Comment by Oggy — April 6, 2012 @ 8:27 am

  3. Isn’t the subject 1 in 5 Americans? Can’t the subject be complex? If you remove that part it reads “1 is disabled” which isn’t the subject of the sentence.

    1 in 5, that is the subject, because its a fraction.
    1/5 of americans are disabled. Get it? 1/5 of americans is disabled? No
    But likely I’m wrong.

    Comment by Rolston — April 6, 2012 @ 12:32 pm

  4. You right, the fraction is the subject.

    Comment by Lyle_S — April 6, 2012 @ 4:07 pm

  5. 62 million Americans ARE disabled. (Subject is countable and is pural)
    One fifth (1/5) of Americans are disabled? That’s messy. Still, you are talking about one (1) of five (5) so it’s singular.
    A fifth (1/5) of America is disabled. Even that is a mess because America coud refer to a pastry chef or Playmate or country.
    A fifth (1/5) of America’s population is disabled. (subject is singluar…one…and is countable.)
    4/5 of America’s population ARE not disabled. The argument is that the population is countable and is plural.
    4/5 of America’s population IS not disabled. The argument here is that the population is not countable so it doesn’t matter if it is plural or not. The fraction of the population is referred to collectively as an uncountable group.

    But when referring to one in five you will always have a singular verb.

    The problem is that “1 in 5 Americans” equals 62 million. So if you say “1 in 5 Americans” then you are saying 62 million, which is plural. In your bionic mind you are making that mathmatical leap and want the verb to be plural to correspond to the gravity of the problem. 1 disabled person isn’t such a big deal. 62 million disabled people are something else.

    But the way they worded it they have minimized the problem to a single group of five people and one of that group IS disabled. Do that 62 million times and you’ll have your plural verb.

    Comment by oggy — April 6, 2012 @ 9:35 pm

  6. Thanks for putting this into perspective. It was definitely my bionic mind’s fault.

    Comment by Rolston — April 6, 2012 @ 10:34 pm

  7. But I’m not done. When they say 1 in 5 Americans, they are saying the subject is a percentage of Americans. Since they put an s on Americans, it’s plural, so “are” is appropriate.

    A fifth of whiskey is not the same as 1/5 fifth of whiskies.

    In the first instance, the fraction is a singular thing. In the second, it is a fraction of many unique things, or individual examples, of one class.

    Which of the following is correct?

    1 in 5 whiskies are a lot more whiskies than a fifth of whisky.

    1 in 5 whiskies is a lot more whiskies than a fifth of whiskey.

    Alas, I see my mistake. The right way to say it is neither.

    1 in 5 whiskies is a lot more whiskey than a fifth of whiskey.

    Is that right?

    Comment by Rolston — April 6, 2012 @ 10:57 pm

  8. Mmmnnn, Whiskey

    Comment by homey badger — April 7, 2012 @ 1:46 pm

  9. “Americans” refers to the “5 Americans”. One in five Americans….
    You can’t say One of every five American…because five is plural. Five Americans. One American. The subject is still the one American who is disabled. It’s qualified as a subset of the five Americans. “in five Americans” is the prepositional clause.
    1 in 5 whiskies IS a lot more than a fifth of whiskey. right singular subject.
    4 in 5 whiskies ARE a lot more than 1 in 5 whiskies. plural subject.

    Comment by Oggy — April 7, 2012 @ 3:11 pm

  10. Here’s a real life example I found…

    “First of all, it should be noted that one man in 3 ejaculates quicker than he wants to, and that the vast majority of men sometimes ejaculate too quickly. ”

    one man in 3 ejaculates quicker than HE wants to. The subject is the one man and is singular.
    Two men in three ejaculate at THEIR leisure. plural.

    Comment by Oggy — April 7, 2012 @ 4:17 pm

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