To put something in perspective

Lesson #
February 3, 2020

To “put something in perspective” means to compare with something similar to give a clearer, more accurate idea.


Transcript

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To put something in perspective

Today’s expression is to put something in perspective. In the first part of this episode, I said that Coalition for Epidemic Preparedness has challenged several biotech firms to develop a coronavirus vaccine in just 16 weeks. To put that in perspective, it took years to develop the Ebola virus.

When you put something in perspective, you take something that’s usually difficult to understand and you compare it to something else. By putting something in perspective, you help your reader or your listener understand something better by making a comparison with something else.

A lot of you are doctors and scientists, so you know the amount of work required to develop a vaccine. But if you’re like me, then you probably don’t know much about how long this takes. If I say that drugmakes are trying to develop a vaccine in 16 weeks, that sounds fast—but is it really fast? What’s normal? Is normal 16 weeks, 16 months, or 16 years? I really don’t know. I need to put it in perspective by comparing it to something else.

The Ebola virus took two years to develop. Two years is more than 100 weeks. So now you know more about how fast 16 weeks truly would be. We have put it in perspective.

I’m considering switching website hosting companies in the next few months. It won’t affect any of you, except that the site will hopefully be faster. But I’ve got to make sure that I make the right choice and I know how much each plan will cost. One plan includes 10 gigabytes of storage. Is that good? Do you guys think that’s enough? I didn’t know. I have no idea if 10 gigabytes is a lot, a little, or what. To put that in perspective, I looked at my current cPanel—the back, back end of my web site—and discovered that I’m currently using about 5 gigabytes. That puts things in perspective. Now I know that 10 gigabytes is probably enough for now. And as I’m comparing the plans, I’ll look to the next-highest plan, so I know how much the price will go up when I exceed 10 gigabytes, maybe in another year or two.

I find that “to put something in perspective” is often used when there are numbers and when the numbers describe something that we’re not familiar with. How many weeks does it take to develop a vaccine? I don’t know. How many gigabytes of storage do I need on my web site? Again, I have a general idea, but I don’t really know.

Here’s another example. About 16 million acres have burned this year in Australia. That’s a lot. We know that’s a lot. But do you really know the scale of this disaster? Weren’t there wildfires in California last year? Weren’t there a lot of fires in the Amazon last year? Is what’s going on now in Australia worse than what happened in California or in Brazil? About the same? We don’t know.

Let’s put that in perspective. The worst wildfire season in California’s history was two years ago. Two million acres burned. Last year in Brazil, about 2.2 million acres burned in the Amazon region of Brazil. In Australia this year, it’s 16 million acres. That puts it in perspective. When you heard me say that 16 million acres burned, you probably thought that was a lot. But when you first heard me say that, did you know that was more than seven times worse than what happened in Brazil last year? Probably not. We don’t think about these numbers too much, so it’s easy to lose perspective. That’s why we need to put these numbers in perspective to fully understand them.

One thing that makes me laugh is when people complain about the price of gasoline going up by, I don’t know, 50 cents or a dollar. I don’t want to discount the effect that higher gas prices have on people’s budgets—that’s not my point. My point is this: let’s put this in perspective. A gallon of gasoline in Chicago today costs about $2.75. A gallon of milk costs about $4.00. Think about what it takes to get a gallon of gasoline into your car—and the fact that this all happens for $2.75 is nothing short of a miracle. The process of getting milk from its source to your table is a lot simpler than getting oil out of the ground, refined, and into your car. So when people complain gas is up by 25 cents, I just put it in perspective by comparing it to how much they pay for a gallon of milk.

Quote of the week

As I was writing this article last Sunday, news broke that the basketball star Kobe Bryant had died in a helicopter crash. And I was reminded of a quote of his from a few years back, so I looked it up, and here it is: “Everybody loves winning, but not everybody loves the process of getting to the win.” That’s for sure. Kobe Bryant had a famously strict work ethic, which paid off in his legendary basketball career. Especially with sports, it’s easy for us to watch TV and not quite realize the amount and intensity of work that goes into it. So here’s that quote from Kobe Bryant once more: “Everybody loves winning, but not everybody loves the process of getting to the win.”


That’s it for today—thanks for joining us. Last week, I dropped a hint about a new episode topic. I said that it’s about the number 98.6. Have you figured it out yet? If not, I’ll give you another hint. Maybe you aren’t familiar with 98.6; maybe you’re familiar with 37. So if either of those numbers mean anything to you, then you’ll want to listen on Thursday because there is some surprising news about those two numbers. If you don’t know what those numbers are…then you’ll just have to listen on Thursday and find out.

Remember to fill out the listener survey at PlainEnglish.com/survey. It’s not too long, don’t worry. And you can take it very easily from your mobile phone as you’re commuting to and from work, or waiting for an elevator, or whenever you have five minutes to spare. PlainEnglish.com/survey and everyone who fills it out will get instant access to a free video lesson from me. How does that sounds? Not to mention, you’re helping your favorite podcasters at the same time. So do that now, before you forget! PlainEnglish.com/survey.

¿Hablas español?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into Spanish. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

你说中国话?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Parlez-vous français?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Você fala português?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

日本語は話せますか?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Parli italiano?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sprechen Sie Deutsch?

The transcript of this lesson is available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Sen Türkçe konuşmayı biliyor musun?

The transcripts of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Turkish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

Mówisz po polsku?

The transcript of Plain English lessons are available with interactive translations into your language. In each lesson transcript, we select about one hundred difficult words, phrases , and expressions for translation. Polish translations are available starting at Lesson 278.

How is this different than simply using a translation engine?

Translation engines are powerful tools for communicating in the modern world . However, they often miss the context and can either mislead you or leave you confused . Our human translators are here to make sure that you’re getting not only the correct definition, but also the full context .

How can I use the translations in my studies?

Most members use the translations as they are listening to the lesson and reading along . When you come across a word you don’t understand, you don’t have to press pause to discover the meaning . You can simply hover your mouse over the highlighted word . This lets you learn the definition of the word without having to press pause on the audio.

Do the translations work on mobile?

Yes! Instead of hovering over a highlighted word, just tap on it .

Can I see a sample?

Yes, please visit PlainEnglish.com/sample to see a sample episode with the Spanish translations.

How can I access the translations?

Translations are included in two memberships: Plain English Plus+ and Starter. Choose a plan and get started today!

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