It is important to note that we are not claiming that what we report is a statistically accurate sample of how people use the words in general or specifically within the blogosphere. Our purpose is to illustrate actual usage, as opposed to iconic or hypothetical examples. We give categorizations and brief discussions of the examples, but this is not the main purpose of the study.
We have recorded all the examples satisfying specified criteria (see "details" below) found during our search. For most examples we quote a sentence or two (prefaced by *) without correcting spelling or grammar.
As the reader will see, this methodology produces instances of everyday life and casual thoughts. Other, superficially similar, projects
Major life events
* I have .... syndrome. The fact that I ever became a mother was a "one in a million chance".
Unusual dramatic events
* and they [adults] all start talking about how im too young to be going out by myself ..... But it's not like im going to listen to them, what happened [witnessing a mall shooting] was a once in a million chance.
Unusual minor events
(vacation went unexpectedly well: quote omitted)
(throwing chips in drunken party: quote omitted)
* Of course if I don't go [to the doctor about certain symptoms], there's that one in a million chance that I'll be sorry I didn't.
(similar quote omitted)
* There are things that we were never told that really end up happening to most women [during pregnancy]. Instead we were told the things that we had a one in a million chance of experiencing.
The phrase "one in a million" is often used to mean ``unusual or unique"
specific connotation of chance. For instance
* full name's [.......] as weird as my name sounds im pruod of it cuz im one in a million.
* I could see her [a personal trainer] sport a devilish grin ..... she had found a one in a million test case as a perfect example of how not to be [fit].
This usage is particularly common in reference to a romantic partner. Indeed, the phrase "1 in a million" occurs at least 11 times as a song title and undoubtedly occurs as a phrase in many other songs. Of the 5 songs whose lyrics we found, all (unsurprisingly, of course) use the phrase for a romantic partner; of these, 2 explicitly refer to ``chance".
(xxx cross-ref a separate philosophical discussion: we perceive ``unusual" objects/events as part of general intelligence, but only sometimes do we regard it as ``witnessing an unlikely event" - why this distinction/)
Ironically, the phrase "1 in a million" is also used in the opposite sense
"one of a million similar ....":
* I'm just an ordinary one in a million high school student ......
4. It is remarkable that the two most common "iconic" examples of a one in a million chance (winning the lottery; struck by lightning -- xxx cross-ref) appear in these blog not as the actual example but as a hypothetical comparison with the actual examples. It's worth noting, though perhaps unsurprising, that none of these quoted instances relate to situations where one can quantitatively estimate a 1 in a million chance.
5. We expected to see the phrase "1 in a million chance" arising more often in sports contexts. The fact this only appeared twice in our examples may be an artifact of the particular blogs we examined.
* my dad's question was, "why do you have to go through so much to ask him [to a dance]?
why don't you just pull him aside and ask straight on?" HAH, fat chance.
* I would have loved to be able to pick up, pack up and move somewhere far far FAR away from my shiteous boss and stressful job. Fat chance, eh?
* i was hoping that since we were celebrating my birthday, that they would get over themselves and come at least act like they still were two of my best friends. fat chance.
* - find a guy lololl fat chance XD im gonna stay boyfriendless until im EIGHTEEN or nineteen.
* [a particular boy] is still hanging out with me but i know there's no fat chance we're going to "hang out" anymore because he has a GIRLFRIEND.
* But still, in those moments before I stepped on the scale, I let myself think that I might go under 120 [pounds weight] today. Fat chance, but still...
* everyone is sick of my [boy friend] drama. i am sick of my drama. freakin story of my life. hopefully this week will be awesome. fat chance.
* To be honest it's a fat chance obtaining a [landscape architecture] job at this time of life,
On the other hand, "slim chance" is used (in all 9 of the examples we found) to mean that some
desirable event is or was unlikely.
* When I think about how the chances of us having met were so
slim to the chances of us never talking, it just keeps me in awe.
* thinking by some slim chance, they [parents] may actually punish him [arrested son] for something ...
* I will likely be there [at a job] for another 4-6 weeks, with a slim chance of staying until the end of June.
* Those people think using the name of christ can build others trust, and loyalty, or think of them as pure people ... No doubt there are good people like above up there, religious or not, but its a slim chance and you have to sooooo lucky before u actually meet one.
* Im betting all this just on one girl ... this one slim chance ... why am I willing to go so far for her
* if I'm not going to graduate school or not become a lawyer or a doctor or a teacher ... it's a very slim chance I have no idea what I want to do with my life haha.
* I miss having that one person ... who mkaes me plan my schedule, in hopes of that one slim chance that I might see her for a split second.
* Basically I have slim chance of minoring [in desired subject] now...
* The competition is pretty fierce, over 200 artists submitted work, so my chances are slim.
Of course the phrase means "likely", but what are the nuances of usage? We were surprised to see this phrase occur relatively often in people's self-profiles. In retrospect we recognize this usage as a rhetorical device, but would not have guessed it in advance.
Use in self-profiles.
* If I'm not off hiding somewhere with a good book, chances are I'm chasing a toddler or a Jack Russell ...
* I'm fiercly opinionated and if you're sensitive, don't ask me what I think. Chances are I'm gonna say it sucks.
(similar quote omitted).
* If it involves creativity, chances are I love it!
* Chances are, if you are reading my blog, you and I share a passion for travel, design, photography, culinary, and all manners of stylish living.
* If you found me through Google, chances are I have written about whatever you searched for more than once.
(similar quote omitted).
We found 6 uses outside of profiles, but these all were meaning "likely" without any noticable nuances, so we have omitted the exact quotes.
* So guess I was feeling risky or daring or something and I walked through a high-rise construction site.
Without a hard hat. In open-toed shoes.
* my new ideas [for writing a novel] are not as adventurous and risky.
* Good news is that we will start [a production process] which is a bit risky ... potentially we can face additional retooling charges ...
And only 2 refered to specific other people. Instead, the majority of examples were
Strategies in games (3); Investments (3); generally deploring risky individual behavior (drugs, sex, violence, verbal abuse) (4).
Finally there was general life philosophy, illustrated by
* Practicing what one preaches is risky business.
* Not that I'm advocating living a risky life, but LIVE your life and take chances.
* Ebay is risky that's all.
the reality is that the people reading this post are rich in many ways,
far beyond the expectation and even imagination of the vast majority of the rest of the world.
So, in perspective most will agree we are lucky, and by most standards very fortunate
with much to be thankful for.
* I know how fortunate I am, how fortunate my family is, and most importantly, my daughter is to be born is this country.
* I am fortunate to have had a good [state] education .....
* I am fortunate in my life and feel the desire to help and give back to others that aren't. I have had Juvenile Diabetes, an autoimmune disease which destroyed my ability to produce insulin for 22 years. I wear a ... Insulin Pump that delivers insulin to me 24/7. Its tough sometimes being hooked up to a device all the time! I love spending time with my twin boys .....
The 9 uses above illustrate what might be considered the main difference between "fortunate" and "lucky", that "fortunate" typically refers to an ongoing state of affairs whereas "lucky" typically refers to a particular event. The 6 uses below refer to particular events -- would the meaning be different if the writer had used the word "lucky" instead?
2. We omit fiction, and omit attempts at serious scientific explanations involving chance.
3. Subject to the criteria above, we have recorded all instances we found, either as a quote or via a "similar" comment.