in inverse proportion to

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Lebonvieuxtemps, Jan 9, 2013.

  1. Lebonvieuxtemps Member


    Is it a natural English way of saying what is obvious I want to express below?

    "The festival has grown from year to year, in inverse proportion to the financial support received from public institutions"

    Thanks a lot!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 9, 2013
  2. dasubergeek Senior Member

    English - US; French - CH
    It's certainly understandable and fluent.
  3. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    "Inverse proportion" is perfectly natural ... but I suspect its use is primarily by the better educated, including those who enjoyed high school mathematics. :)

    In other words, you might easily find native speakers unfamiliar with the term.

    Please do remember to capitalize English, however. :)
  4. Lebonvieuxtemps Member

    Oh, thank you!:p

    Can anyone suggest a more natural way of expressing it?
  5. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    I can't think of any other way to express it, other than verbosely, e.g. "The festival has grown from year to year, by the same percentage that financial support received from public institutions has been reduced.

    Personally, I use "inverse proportion" frequently and don't worry about those who might not understand it.
  6. Lebonvieuxtemps Member

    Thank you very much!:)
  7. lucas-sp Senior Member

    English - Californian
    I agree with SD that this is a fine use of the phrase. But "in inverse proportion" here sounds a bit mean, since it emphasizes the incongruity between the growing popularity of the festival and the decline in public funding. It even suggests a correlation: the financial support has been diminished because the festival has become more popular. And besides, there's nothing wrong with stating things plainly. I would try to state it more neutrally...

    ... which might look like "As the popularity of the festival has grown, the amount of financial support it receives from public institutions has diminished." Perhaps even "... has unfortunately diminished."
  8. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    I took the original sentence to mean specifically there was a correlation! The less public funding there was, the more the festival grew - that's the meaning of the "inverse proportion".

    If that's not the intended meaning, then "inverse proportion" is used incorrectly. If the sense is that the festival has grown each year, even though public funding has decreased, then a different phrase is needed. "In spite of steadily decreasing public funding, the festival has managed to grow each year".
  9. gramman

    gramman Senior Member

    >>even suggests a correlation

    I wouldn't say there's any causality implied in the use of "inverse proportion," but it does suggest a near one-to-one relationship of the trends, one that may not be present. Has financial support declined at the same rate as the festival has expanded?

    In any event, lucas-sp's suggested rewording seems commendable. :thumbsup:

    crossposted after I screamed at my TV for three minutes because I can't stop the mute!! :mad:
  10. Beryl from Northallerton Senior Member

    British English
    The fact that this has generated multiple readings suggests to me that it is not a phrase to be used lightly.
  11. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I wouldn't be very happy about the original here, because it seems to be stating that there is an inverse relationship between a level (of financial support from public institutions) and the rate of growth - how is this measured? - of the festival.

    Let's suppose, for instance, that by 'the festival' in this context you mean the number of people attending it: the growth in the festival is measured by the growth in the number of people coming.

    By using a mathematical term you make people wonder if you really mean that the level of public-sector financial support is inversely related to the rate of growth in the numbers coming, rather than simply to the numbers coming.

    Inverse relationships more often link two levels, though it's not out of the question that they could relate the size of one function and the size of the first-order derivative of another.

    Better to keep it non-mathematical and say, the festival has grown from year to year, while financial support from public institutions has declined, if that's what you mean.
  12. boozer Senior Member

    But this is just a figure of speech, TT - I do not suppose any exactitude has been sought really, wouldn't you say? (Of course, strictly speaking, when mathematics and science come into the picture, you are right :) )
  13. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    I agree, Boozer. But it's hard to know. When people use mathematical expressions to project non-mathematical ideas they court trouble.

    That's why I think we need to remove the mathematics from the sentence.
  14. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    I entirely agree. The mathematical expression generates confusion, not clarity.
  15. JulianStuart

    JulianStuart Senior Member

    Sonoma County CA
    English (UK then US)
    Precisely. The word is not one to use "figuratively"


Share This Page