to the nth power

Discussion in 'English Only' started by tsoapm, Dec 6, 2012.

  1. tsoapm

    tsoapm Senior Member

    Emilia–Romagna, Italy
    English (England)

    Think this must be my first time in this forum… it’s related to an Italian translation I’m doing, but I won’t bore you with that for long; suffice it to say that the phrase I’m trying to translate would literally be:

    [car x:] a concentrate of energy raised to the maximum power.

    I reckon that sounds pretty lame, and the expression ‘to the nth power’ came into my head as an alternative. I know that technically, the n just means a variable, but I’ve an idea that it’s used as informal shorthand for, if not maximum, at least a rather high power.

    What do you reckon?
  2. JuanEscritor

    JuanEscritor Senior Member

    English - AmE
    I haven't looked up any technical math usage on this, but I will say that I would not interpret to the nth power as meaning anything other than 'to an unknown power'.

  3. Hau Ruck

    Hau Ruck Senior Member

    United States - Midwest
    English - U.S.

    My thoughts exactly.
  4. timpeac

    timpeac Senior Member

    English (England)
    I think you need to give more context about this. I think I could imagine a context where "to the nth power" (informally and incorrectly as you say) could be interpreted as "hugely" - but what is the context of the piece? The use of the term "maximum" would suggest you need something meaning "the largest possible" (as opposed to "a huge amount"). The other words seem to suggest a fairly scientific context.

    I think I've heard "nth degree" (as opposed to "nth power") used where there is no confusion with real scientific meaning - as in "she was annoying to the nth degree".
  5. JustKate

    JustKate Moderate Mod

    I have heard nth degree used in just this way.
  6. Fern_

    Fern_ Senior Member

    English - British
    if it's talking about a car, then maybe it's 'with its power raised to the maximum' that's implied rather than a mathematical 'raising to a power'. As Timpeac suggests, more context would be helpful ;)
  7. sdgraham

    sdgraham Senior Member

    Oregon, USA
    USA English
    My late grandmother, who knew nothing of exponents, used this expression frequently.
  8. tsoapm

    tsoapm Senior Member

    Emilia–Romagna, Italy
    English (England)
    I reckon you’ll have all the context you really need if I tell you it’s Italian marketing guff :D from a car catalogue, but here’s what I have so far:

    The XXX, direct from the XXX Championship: a concentrate of energy to the maximum power. Emotion, performance and technological research are the values that took it to the track at the side of the greatest XXX drivers. The same values ensure that it now dominates everyday roads, ready to offer performance and safety to those looking for an unadulterated sports spirit.

    I’d put good money on their “maximum” being mere hyperbole. I could hedge my bets and put “highest” instead, I suppose.
    I’d probably use this except for the fact that I’ve got “power” in Italian and I think I need to keep that concept. Thanks.
  9. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    English / England
    I always think of God or Alcoholics Anonymous when I hear talk of highest power.
  10. tsoapm

    tsoapm Senior Member

    Emilia–Romagna, Italy
    English (England)
    Nuts. :( You might have something there, although it’s usually “higher”, isn’t it?
  11. suzi br

    suzi br Senior Member

    English / England
    It is, but that doesn't stop me thinking it .. ;)

Share This Page