Too Many Halves

"Some have challenged my mathematics that Phil Reeves is 1000% local. I stand by my statement 10000% :-)"
Kevin Rudd, via Twitter

A person or object is described in some way that involves fractions. Oddly, those fractions don't add up to one. The most common form this description takes is "half [one thing], half [another thing], and half [something else]" or extended versions thereof — hence the name — but it can also involve more complicated addition problems. Another common variation is to have a character refer to splitting something "fifty-fifty," then realizing there are more people to split it among, and adjusting the proposed split to "fifty-fifty-fifty," etc. An occasional inversion is to say something is "half-something, half...just half-something" as an insult.

Sometimes this is used to suggest that the described thing is paradoxically larger (or smaller) than itself. It is almost always Played for Laughs, unless it's a really bad example of Writers Cannot Do Math.


Fan Works
  • Project Sunflower: Harmony has this exchange when Luna describes a stack of correspondence:
    Luna: Half of them are calling upon me to step down from my position, half are complaints about my competency, half are blatant attempts to curry favor through base flattery, and the rest are none-too-subtle hints of how our lines should be joined in matrimony at the first opportunity.
    Celestia: By my count, that is at least three ‘halfs’, sister.
    Luna: Yes. There may be some overlap.

Film — Live Action
  • In Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Willy says "Invention, my dear friends, is 93% perspiration, 6% electricity, 4% evaporation, and 2% butterscotch ripple." Mrs. Teevee points out that that adds up to 105%.
  • Caddyshack II:
    Jack Hartounian: My father was Armenian. My mother was half Jewish, half English, half Spanish.
    Chandler Young: That's three halves.
    Jack Hartounian: Oh, she was a big woman.
  • In The Producers, a lot of little old ladies are each sold a 50% or greater share of the profits of "Springtime for Hitler" (which are expected to be negative).
    Max: Leo, how much percentage of a play can there be all together?
    Leo: Max, you can only sell one hundred percent of anything.
    Max: And how much of "Springtime for Hitler" have we sold?
    Leo: Twenty-five thousand percent.
  • Mrs. Doubtfire contains this variant:
    "Is your sister English?"
    "Half English, half American. Half-sister, really, so that makes her, what, about an eighth English? I don't know, I've never really done the math."
  • In Anger Management, Chuck claims to be "half Jewish, half Italian, half Mexican." Which is actually possible, because Judaism (even culturally Jewish ancestry specifically) and Mexican/Italian heritage are not mutually exclusive—one of his parents could easily be a Jewish Mexican or Italian.

  • The Discworld novel Eric has the Aztec-flavoured god Quezovercoatl, who is described as "half-man, half-chicken, half-jaguar, half-serpent, half-scorpion and half-mad", making "a wossname total of three homicidal maniacs".
  • An epigram by Alexander Pushkin describes one of his contemporaries as a "half-milord, half-merchant, half-fool, half-ignoramus, half-scoundrel, but there's a hope he'll finally be full".
  • In Animorphs, Ax — and by extension the Andalite race in general — is once described as half blue deer, half centaur, and half scorpion. Then the narrator Lampshades it by saying they realize that it's too many halves.
  • From the Known Space book Destiny's Forge:
    Tskombe: Half a sense of adventure, half a sense of duty, half no better plan for my life.
    Cherenkova: That's three halves.
    Tskombe: If I was smart enough to do math I wouldn't be in the infantry.
  • When Eric Flint expanded 1632 from a one-off novel to a Shared Universe, he set out to avert this trope, by laying down rules for what characters other writers could create. Otherwise,
    ... In addition to the half who are rocket scientists and the other half who are SEALS, Eric has provided us a list of the following additional halves:
    The half who are engineers, which are in turn divided into half electrical engineers, half locomotive engineers, half chemical engineers, half mechanical engineers, and too many thirds and quarters to count.
    There is, I believe — at last count — exactly one person in everybody's fantasy Grantville who is elderly and illiterate. Of course, he's also the son of Alvin York and shoots even better than his daddy. "The Many Halves of Grantville"

Live-Action TV
  • At the end of the Seinfeld episode "The Sniffing Accountant", Jerry describes his shirt as "half silk, half cotton, half linen".
  • One episode of All That revealed that Britney Spears is "half girl, half robot, half ravioli."
  • From a Demetri Martin bit discussing his ideas for mythological creatures:
    Demetri: A very beautiful mythical creature is called the Zebratard, and this animal is one-half pig, one-half eagle, one-half zebra, making it an improper fraction - so that's three halves of a creature, that's one-and-a-half mythical creatures - and it's surprisingly graceful, and very rare.
  • In one episode of Farscape, Crichton (while posing as a bounty hunter) suggests splitting a bounty 70/30; the other bounty hunter demands it be split "70/40!" Crichton, who clearly knows he's dealing with an idiot, ups the bid to 80/40 to calm him down.
  • Stargate SG-1, when the team needed to use the power source of a bomb in order to power up the gate and dial out, Vala estimated a 70% chance they'd dial out and a 50% chance the bomb would explode. When Mitchell pointed out that this totaled 120%, Vala states that there's a 20% overlap where both happen, subverting this trope.
    Mitchell: Jackson, you get all that?
    Jackson: Yep. 100% chance we should have brought someone who knows what they're doing!
  • In Andromeda, when talking about a madman's diary:
    Harper: It's half mystical mumbo-jumbo, half putrid poetry, and half bad math.
    Rommie: That's three halves.
    Harper: Like I said, bad math.
  • In earlier seasons of MythBusters, Adam (who averts this trope) would often give percentage chances of what would happen during an experiment. One of the few times Jamie tried to do this, this trope resulted. (Yes, even Jamie can make mistakes.)
    Rob Lee: Uh, Jamie, that's 125%.
    Jamie: [chuckling] So sue me!
  • In the The Flash (2014) episode "Plastique", Barry Allen enjoys a 500 proof drink. That's 250 percent alcohol by volume.
  • On 30 Rock, Jack describes an incredibly fancy dessert as being "topped with 25-carat gold leaf." Note that 24-carat gold is pure, 100% gold.

  • The Non-Prophets song "Xaul Zhan's Heart" has the line:
    "Half shark-alligator, half man, half amazing."

Professional Wrestling
  • WWE: Montel Vontavious Porter: "I am half-man, half-amazing, half-tag-team-champion... I'm so great, I'm the only man on Earth with three halves!"

  • Car Talk: Frequently, Tom & Ray would give the answer to last week's Puzzler, then promise "We'll have a new Puzzler for you in the third half of the show."
  • Dead Ringers, when parodying Location, Location, Location, has Kirstie Allsopp introduce herself as "half-woman, half-scarf" and then Phil Spencer introduce himself as "half-man"... (silence)

Tabletop Games
  • This can happen in Dungeons & Dragons 3rd edition due to abuse of the various "half-x" templates. Some supplementary materials try to Handwave this by say that species that can produce half-X templates have such strong genes that the template still applies even if the child is a quarter or eighth of that species, but that still doesn't account for the fact that certain half-x templates have full blooded counterparts as templates and that the baseline races that these templates can be applied to include various Heinz Hybrids, some of which are stated to be distant descendents of said templates. This means that you could have a Fiendish Half-Fiend Tiefling who was 153% Fiend and 97% Human.
  • Played with in Munchkin. Despite being built from the ground up to parody various role playing game clichés (and the entire concept of role playing games in general), the "Half-Breed" card only lets you play two Race cards at once, as the name implies. To play three Race cards, you'll need a "1/3-Breed" card. (But then, the rules encourage cheating...)

Video Games
  • In one of his many boasts in Ratchet & Clank Future: A Crack In Time, Qwark explains to Ratchet that "being a hero is 45% strength, 60% bravery and 10% raw intelligence". Ratchet doesn't fail to lampshade that something doesn't add up.

Web Comics

Western Animation
  • In the South Park episode "ManBearPig", Al Gore describes the eponymous monster as being "half man, half bear, half pig." When we actually see ManBearPig exactly as Gore imagines him in the Imaginationland episodes, it does in fact look part man, part bear, and part pig in some proportion. Other characters point out that this is too many halves, and instead describe it as "half man and half bearpig", or some such version.
  • The Charlie Dog character from Looney Tunes had jokes about this as one of his main schticks. He would claim to be 50% of about half a dozen different breeds.
    Charlie: I'm 50% Pointer (There it is! There it is! There it is!), 50% Boxer, 50% Setter (Irish Setter), 50% Watch Dog, 50% Spitz, 50% Doberman Pincher. But, mostly, I'm all Labrador Retriever! If you doubt my word, get me a Labrador and I'll retrieve it.
  • Bender from Futurama has claimed at various points to be 30% iron, 40% zinc, 40% titanium, 40% lead, and 40% dolomite (that last one having at least some demonstrable truth to it because he survived swimming in molten lava). According to the professor he's mostly made up of a titanium-osmium alloy with a .3% nickel impurity.
  • A House of Mouse short has the Big Bad Wolf telling his son that catching pigs is "fifty percent" whatever lesson he's trying to teach at the moment. Eventually, the son dryly informs him of just what all the "fifty percents" add to by that point.
  • The Simpsons episode "Homer at the Bat" had Burns attempting to improve the plant baseball team by hiring a hypnotist:
    Hynpotist: You are all very good players...
    Team: [entranced] We are all very good players...
    Hypnotist: You will beat Shelbyville...
    Team: [entranced] We will beat Shelbyville...
    Hypnotist: You will give one hundred and ten percent...
    Team: [entranced] That's impossible. No one can give more than one hundred percent. By definition that is the most anyone can give...
  • In the Arthur episode "Tales from the Crib", when the mischievous Tibble twins invent a monster to frighten DW from moving out of her crib.
    Tibbles: Aracnar, Lord of the Spider People. He's half-man, half-spider, and he eats children. He can't get his tentacles through the bars of the crib, but kids in beds are easy picking! He climbs up the side, and crawls under the sheet!
    DW: Wait a second! If he's half-man, half-spider, why does he have tentacles?
    Tibbles: ...uh, he's half-octopus too! And half Tyrannosaurus rex!
  • A Looney Tunes short with Daffy Duck hosting a show exploring the "Mysterious Phenomena of the unexplained" has Daffy explain that the Chupacabra is "Half Alien, Half Vampire, Half Dinosaur"
  • Kim Possible uses a variation on the "110%" version when Bonnie declares her intention of wresting the cheer squad captaincy away from Kim:
    Bonnie: Which is... nice, but you gotta ask yourself, did you give the squad 110% today?
    Kim: (annoyed) 120%, Bonnie.
    Bonnie: I happen to think the squad deserves a captain who gives... like, 130!
  • On Total Drama, Duncan claims to have fought a mutant that was "half-lion, half-bear and half-poison."
  • Irwin from The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy is described as half-human, half-vampire, and half-mummy in the "Underfist" special. Truth be told, he's quarter-human, quarter-vampire, and half-mummy, but that doesn't really affect his supernatural vampire-mummy powers anyway.

  • One standard email forward of student errors contains:
    Handel was half German, half Italian and half English. He was very large.
  • The "ninety-ninety rule" of computer programming, which is due to Tom Cargill of Bell Labs:
    "The first 90 percent of the code accounts for the first 90 percent of the development time. The remaining 10 percent of the code accounts for the other 90 percent of the development time."
  • This quote from Yogi Berra:
    Baseball is ninety percent mental. The other half is physical.
  • Milton Jones has a variation on this trope: he makes a joke about his granddad, and then about his other granddad, and then about his other granddad, continuing through about eight different granddads. He then later calls back to this by complaining about family reunions. "Too many granddads." The granddad jokes usually end with "My grandmother... was confused."
  • A non-comedic example; an old post on Fundies Say the Darndest Things had a poster who claimed Barack Obama was 50% white, 44% Muslim, and 12% black.
  • This is always the case for betting odds, as it allows the bookies to make money. To see why this is so imagine a person who bets once on every possibility available. They have effectively bet on an event with actual probability 1, but since more likely events pay out less and the bookies odds add to more than 1, the person loses money to the bookie whichever result happens.
  • Fermions such as quarks and leptons have the bizarre property of having a different orientation after a rotation of 360°. They require a full 720° to remain unchanged.
  • USA Today published a Back to the Future-themed "Hill Valley Edition" on October 22, 2015, which Back to the Future Part II noted as the day on which Doc Brown purchased a USA Today reporting on the arrest of Marty McFly Jr. The last story on the front page bears the headline, "Public more gullible than ever", and uses Lies, Damned Lies, and Statistics to detail an experiment from the Sam Houston Institute of Technology apparently revealing how easily readers might mistake the paper's stories for actual events. The percentages add up to 110%, a gag that the story invoking this trope again.
    Interestingly, 87% of the readers of this very article were unaware that the total percentages involved added up to more than 100%, demonstrating that basic math skills are continuing to decline. The remaining 22% didn't care.