Today’s expression is “a tiny sliver.” A sliver, according to the definition, is “a long, slender piece” or “a narrow portion.” If someone offers you a piece of cake at a birthday party, you can say you just want a sliver, a tiny piece, the narrowest piece you can cut with a knife. Sometimes I say I just want a sliver, but I hope they cut a big piece by accident.
That’s not how I used it in today’s lesson. I said that Christians are a tiny sliver of the population in Turkey. Picture a pie chart. A pie chart is a graphic, a circular graphic that shows you percentages. We’ve all seen it. If the pie chart shows you 50% are one thing and 50% are another thing, the chart will be divided down the middle.
When we want to say something is a very small percentage, we say that it is a “tiny sliver.” Why do we say that? Because we want our listeners, our readers, to picture a pie chart in their minds, and we want them to picture the tiniest little piece of the pie chart depicting our subject.
Christians in Turkey: there about 200,000 to 300,000 of them. This is in a country of 83 million people: they make up less than one half of one percent of the population. Among people who follow a religion in Turkey, about 98 percent are Muslim. About one percent say they are spiritual but not religious. Two-tenths of a percent said they were Christian and the rest said they were another religion. Two-tenths of a percent said they were Christian.
What does that pie chart look like? The pie chart is almost entirely Muslim and then a few tiny slivers. Spiritual but non-religious, other, and Christian each are one percent or less of the pie. They are just a tiny sliver. So we can that only a tiny sliver of the population is Christian.
Of course, this was but one survey and there are many ways of framing the question. This survey, for example, didn’t include people who said they were not religious at all. But you get the point: a small percentage is said to be a tiny sliver.
Here in the US, Muslims are a tiny sliver of the population: about one percent. A tiny sliver of our population is Buddhist, too, about seven-tenths of the population.
What percentage of the population is left-handed? Any lefties out there? If so, you know that the world is built for right-handed people. If you’re left-handed, you have company: about nine to ten percent of the world’s population is left-handed. You might feel that you’re in a small minority, but I’m sorry to say that does not count as a tiny sliver. Ten percent of a big birthday cake is not a small portion.
About one percent of the population, however, is ambidextrous. That means they neither favor their left hand nor their right hand. They truly can use one just as well as the other. Just one percent: a tiny sliver of the population is ambidextrous.
You’ll notice that all my examples are about a population, usually people, but it can be animals, too. The important thing is that we almost always use “a tiny sliver” when talking about a small minority of people. You would not say, “A tiny sliver of these products is defective.” That doesn’t work because it’s talking about an object; you have to talk about a population.
Gluten-free products are popular here. Many restaurants have gluten-free menus. Gluten is a group of proteins found in wheat and wheat products. Bread, beer, pancakes, the batter covering fried chicken. All that has gluten. A tiny sliver of the population cannot digest gluten. They have Celiac’s disease. Eating gluten, eating bread will make them sick. But it’s a tiny sliver of the population.
A lot of people have decided to eliminate gluten from their diets because it makes them feel better or they think it’s a healthier choice. That’s why so many restaurants have gluten-free menus. It’s a nice option for people who truly have the disease, but they are only a tiny sliver of the population. Most restaurants could not afford to offer a special menu for a tiny sliver of the population with Celiac’s disease. But they can offer it to the much larger percentage of people who don’t eat gluten for other reasons.
JR’s song of the week
Today’s song of the week is “Golden Age of Radio” by Josh Ritter. In these lyrics, he describes life on the outskirts of Memphis, a medium-sized city. And he touches on some dissatisfaction with that life, a desire to leave, also a sense that he’s not fitting in. One of the lines is, “Which way did our last chance go, and can we still get out if we go now?” It’s a feeling of being left behind in a place that he doesn’t belong—but you also hear him hint at some nostalgia, too. He’s of two minds in this song. I like it, “Golden Age of Radio” by Josh Ritter. There’s an album of the same name, or you can also hear the live acoustic version of this song, too.
See you next time!
That is all today. I hope you enjoyed today’s lesson. If you’re in Turkey, perhaps in Istanbul, let me know what you think about this. We have a new Facebook group just for Plain English listeners. I’d love to hear what you think about this topic—if you think it should be converted into a mosque or if it should remain a museum or if it’s not a big deal. Let me know in our new Facebook group. I’ll put a link to it in the episode description of this lesson. It’s easy to find us, just go to Facebook and search Plain English. If you land on our business page, there’s a big link that says “Visit Group” and that’s how you find the group. Have a great weekend and we’ll be back on Monday with another Plain English lesson.