Today’s expression is “in the sweet spot.” I was reading the transcript of the first half of the episode, looking for a good expression to talk about. And I didn’t see anything I liked. And then I started adding the details about the subscriber numbers at AMC’s A-List program and the words, “in the sweet spot” just somehow came out of my fingers and onto the screen and as soon as I saw them, I thought, yes, this is the expression we’re going to talk about this week.
“In the sweet spot.” That means, “right where you want it.” It comes from baseball or cricket or tennis or even golf—any sport where you hit a ball with a bat or a racket. I’m tempted to illustrate this with a baseball example, but let’s do it with tennis. You’re returning a serve. You reach back, ready to hit the ball, and you swing the racket forward. Now pause. You could hit the ball in any part of the racket. Down low by the handle. Way over at the other end. Toward the top, toward the bottom. Or, you could hit it right in the sweet spot. Right in the middle. Right where it gives you the most power. Right where you want it: right in the sweet spot.
So that expression has been adapted to mean, in general, right where you want something. AMC’s subscription is about $20 per month and their members see, on average, 2.6 movies per month. I said that seems like it’s right in the sweet spot: right where they want it. If members were going less often, then $20 a month wouldn’t be a good deal for the customer. That wouldn’t be good, because customers would probably cancel pretty soon. But if they were going to 10 or 15 movies a month for just $20, then the price would probably be too low. But to me, I think if I were AMC, I’d be pretty happy with those average attendance numbers. 2.6 visits per month seems like it’s right in the sweet spot, right where they want it.
It’s a common phrase in business. You want to find the sweet spot in the market. If you’re selling something, you don’t want to charge too little or too much; you want to find the sweet spot. That goes for selling subscriptions or selling a house, either way. Some people say the sweet spot for selling a bottle of wine is $20. If you sell for less, people will think it’s no good. But if you sell for more, then nobody will buy it because it’s too expensive. The sweet spot is right around $20.
Here’s an example that’s not from business. In a lot of places in the US, you need a permit from the government to go fishing or hunting. They do this to regulate the amount of fish they want in a lake, for example. If the stocks of fish are too low—like there are not enough fish in the lake—the agency will issue fewer permits the next year, so fewer fish are caught and the population can rebuild. At the same time, they want to serve the residents and attract tourists who want to fish in the lake. So the trick is to determine how many fishing permits to issue in a given year. The agencies have to find the sweet spot between issuing too many permits and too few. Too many, and the population of bass, for example, won’t survive. Too few, and the area won’t get a lot of tourists. They have to find the sweet spot.
I cook a lot of vegetables at home. I like to do asparagus in the oven. I don’t really time it; I kind of just guess based on how it looks. If I don’t leave it in long enough, then it doesn’t taste very good. I like to have the heat on high so it gets a little crispy on the outside, but it’s also no good if it’s overcooked. I try to find the sweet spot where it gets a little crispy but isn’t overcooked.
Now that I think about it, you use “the sweet spot” when you’re looking for just the right position on a sliding scale. Prices are the most obvious, but other things that involve judgment and quantities, too, are all good for this expression.
Quote of the week
Quick quote for you today. Roger Ebert was one of the most famous movie critics in America. He had a long-running column in a newspaper in Chicago, but he was much more famous than that. He was all over TV, magazines, and the internet. Anyway, here’s a quote about movies from Roger Ebert: “Every great film should seem new every time you see it.” I like that, and that’s a good way to close this episode.
By the way, if you’re looking for a good movie, “The Goldfinch” was released on September 13 and I really want to see that one. I’m probably exactly the average moviegoer: I go five times a year. I watch far more movies and series at home. But I will see this one in theaters. “The Goldfinch” is an amazing book—one of my favorite books of all time. I’m a little afraid to see the movie, to be honest. The book is always better, but I have to see this one.
All right, that’s all today. Thanks for being with us as always. Remember to check out the video lesson for this episode at PlainEnglish.com/192 if you’d like a video lesson on how to use the words “rather than.” Just log into your Plain English Plus account and click the video tab on today’s episode web page.
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JR and I are back on Thursday for another exciting episode of Plain English. See you then!