Statistics Terms Associated with Popular Lyrical Expression!


Dr. Larry Lesser (University of Texas at El Paso) has compiled this resource of examples of statistics terms and concepts that have appeared in nationally commercially released audio recordings, spanning a variety of genres.  These can help enliven a day of class in which this term will be introduced.  In addition to the motivating novelty, it also provides an opportunity for classes to discuss any differences there may be between formal and informal usage – between the textbook and the song, as well as any implicit commentary on societal perceptions of or attitudes towards statistics.  As the compiler of this, I invite readers to relay to me any suggestions to add to the list.


Suggested questions for teachers to ask their students:


1.)    What statistics terms or concepts are in this lyric excerpt?

2.)    Is the song’s usage literal or figurative/metaphorical? Explain.

3.)    Are there any differences between formal textbook meaning and the song’s usage?  Explain. 

4.)    What attitude or perception about statistics (or the process of using statistics) does the song’s use of the statistics term/concept bring?

5.)    (Possible extra credit opportunity) Can you think of another quality example of a lyric that has a statistics term/concept?


Lyric Examples:


Song:  “50-50 Chance”

Recording Artist: Suzanne Vega

Album: Days of Open Hand, 1990, A&M Records 7502-15293-1

Lyric Excerpt: “Fifty-fifty chance,” the doctor said,

In cardiac room as she’s lying in bed.


Song:  “100% Chance of Rain”

Recording Artist:  Gary Morris

Album:  Anything Goes. 1985. Warner Brothers W1-25279

Lyric Excerpt:  “The wind blows cold now that you’ve gone away.

And tomorrow, just like today, there’s a hundred percent chance of rain.”


Song:  “Vital Signs”

Recording Artist: Rush

Album:  Moving Pictures, 1981, Mercury Records SRM-1-4013.

Lyric Excerpt:  “Everybody got mixed feelings about the function and the form;

everybody got to deviate from the norm.”


Song:  “Vital Signs”

Recording Artist: Rush

Album:  Moving Pictures, 1981, Mercury Records SRM-1-4013.

Lyric Excerpt:  “random sample, hold the one you need.”


Song:  “Down Here”

Recording Artist:  David Wilcox

Album: Underneath, 1999, Vanguard 79528-2

Lyric Excerpt:  “So you come for a visit, but you lose your nerve

Out at the edges of the bell-shaped curve.”


Song:  “Ascent”

Recording Artist:  Richard Shindell

Album:  Blue Divide, 1994, Shanachie 8014.

Lyric Excerpt:  “Search my family history and analyze my dreams

Expose my contradictions, reduce me to the mean”


Song:  “Super Skier”

Recording Artist: Bob Gibson

Album:  Ski Songs. 1960, Elektra EKL-177

Lyric Excerpt:  “The number of spills was statistically few,

but tell me, who’s counting when one of them’s you?”

Song:  “The Unbirthday Song”

Source: 1951 Walt Disney movie Alice in Wonderland

Lyric Excerpt:  “Statistics prove, prove that you’ve one birthday, one birthday every year.

But there are 364 unbirthdays…”


Song:  “Fire Door  (note: this full lyric may not be suitable for younger audiences)

Recording Artist:  Ani DiFranco

Album:  Ani DiFranco, 1990, Righteous Babe Records 001

Lyric Excerpt:  “I make such a good statistic, someone should study me now –

Somebody’s gotta be interested in how I feel just ‘cause I’m here and I’m real”