November 03, 2006


In re the last entry, what's the opposite of "more likely than not"? "Less likely than not" shellacks "more unlikely than not," but it's still pretty rare compared to "more likely than not." And some of the occurrences are artifacts like "more likely than not-for-profit organizations...."

Maybe it's just that people don't like double negatives. The glass isn't half-nonempty.

Posted by Matt Weiner at November 3, 2006 02:30 PM

I like how you announce a hiatus and then start bustin' out the posts.

Posted by: dagger aleph at November 3, 2006 04:43 PM

I'd say the opposite of "more likely than not" is the simple and elegant "unlikely".

Posted by: My Alter Ego at November 3, 2006 05:37 PM

The glass isn't half-nonempty.

Nonempty could be any quantity from epsilon to full. Half-nonempty, from epsilon to half-full. If it's not that, it's either empty, or more than half full.

Posted by: standpipe b at November 3, 2006 06:19 PM

Dagger, why must you hate? The annoucement was "I was thinking of putting the blog on official hiatus... but I think I'm not going to." Admittedly I'm currently breaking my promise to post infrequently, but I'm sure I can still meet my quota. (Admittedly, you said you "like" it, so my accusation of hating may be similarly accused of twisting your words. But admit it, you're hating.)

MAE, I don't think that'll quite do, for the same reason that "likely" isn't synonymous with "more likely than not." "Unlikely" suggests to me a probability of less than .2 or something -- significantly less than .5, anyway -- and I wanted a phrase to describe the moderate region between unlikely and .5.

Standpipe, that kind of connects to a point that I had vaguely in mind here, but I can't post about it or dagger will mock me.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 4, 2006 10:04 AM

Further investigation reveals that my claim in the linked thread "I'll say what I'm up to in a bit" was kind of a lie.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 4, 2006 10:16 AM

I'm going to keep writing posts on matters oulipian until you respond, Weiner.

I'd say "less than likely".

Posted by: ben wolfson at November 5, 2006 11:32 PM

I'd say "less likely than otherwise" or "less likely than the alternative".

Posted by: Richard Mason at November 6, 2006 12:19 AM

Ben: I have responded. But have you suggested that you will now stop writing such posts? Oh no!

"Less than likely" has a lot of occurrences though a lot of false positives. I'd fear that it could mean anything with p less than .8 or so, but that doesn't seem to be how it's used; in fact it often seems to be used for "unlikely," which is also not quite it. This defines "less than likely" as 10-40% but also defines "likely" as 40-65% which seems slightly goofy.

I like Richard's suggestion, but it's a bit stilted.

Posted by: Matt Weiner at November 6, 2006 09:18 AM

"More likely than not" is also a bit stilted, it just happens to be a conventional phrase.

Posted by: teofilo at November 6, 2006 05:00 PM

How 'bout "not too likely"?

Posted by: The Modesto Kid at November 11, 2006 05:51 AM