May 6, 2022

Vast Minority

I heard a brief item on the radio today. It concerned the Pittsburgh public schools. The reporter wanted to communicate the fact that most teachers in the Pittsburgh public schools are white. She wanted to emphasize, however, that the system has few teachers of color. She described the situation rather oddly, I thought: “Teachers of color are in the vast minority.”

“Vast minority,” really? The reporter clearly chose this locution by analogy to “vast majority.” But “vast” means great in size—a vast majority could not mean 51%, for example. I think the reporter was trying to say that there are very few teachers of color, many fewer than 49%. The minority of such teachers is not vast at all. She could have said that there is a vast lack of teachers of color. (This would be similar to the usually ironic phrase “plentiful lack.”) That would have been odd phrasing as well, but it would actually make some sense. The sentence as delivered makes no sense at all.

Update (5/9/2022): After hearing the report again, I revised the post to reflect the exact sentence the reporter used

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