7

In the opening of “An open letter to the White Walker Army” in The New Yorker (June 12), Sarah Larson exclaims:

Dear White Walkers and Your Thousands of Undead Wights: I get it—you’re scary and disgusting. To Jon Snow and his ragtag, reluctant band of allies, you’re a formidable enemy, an unstoppable harbinger of death; to TV critics, you’re a horrifying thrill. Your triumphant appearance in the “Game of Thrones” episode “Hardhome,” after seasons of teasing, was a coup, a set piece, a breathtaking, daze-inducing experience so pleasurable that it transcended what was already transcendent. To me, however, you’re a snooze factor eleven.

http://www.newyorker.com/culture/sarah-larson/an-open-letter-to-the-white-walker-army

Though I assume “snooze factor” is a snooze button, I cannot find the meaning of “snooze factor” in Google search headings.

What does “a snooze factor eleven” mean? Why should it be “Eleven”, not twelve, ten, nine, or even one?

  • 4
    It's a Star Trek reference. Warp factor 10 and above were the super-dooper (and sometimes impossible) speeds. So "snooze factor 11" uses that phrase ironically to say that something is really boring. – Jason M Jun 11 '15 at 23:42
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    @JasonM Ah, I assumed it was a reference to "turning it up to eleven," a euphemism for exceeding the maximum volume used by musicians who don't measure in dB (and joked about by Xkcd). – user867 Jun 11 '15 at 23:50
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    Doesn't anybody know "Spinal Tap"? – Oldbag Jun 12 '15 at 0:20
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    @HotLicks: Scales of "from one to ten" were commonplace long before television. ST did the chipping. And "eleven" means "overloaded the meter". – John Lawler Jun 12 '15 at 2:01
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    @zxq9 - I agree with the others, "snooze factor" is a reference to Star Trek's "warp factor". That said, as for the O.P.'s other question – Why should it be “Eleven”, not twelve, ten, or nine? – the Spinal Tap reference explains that quite well. – J.R. Jun 12 '15 at 8:52
17

Snooze is to sleep. By extension it implies extreme boredom.

Factor is a measure of something, and is often used along with numbers as in "sun protection factor" as a measure of sunscreen effectiveness, "warp factor" in Star Trek, numbered blood factors.

So "Snooze Factor [something]" would make it understandable as meaning it was very boring and if that "[something]" was a number it would fit a pattern recognised from elsewhere, even though that pattern works differently in different cases.

But what number to use?

Well, in the 1984 comedy "This is Spinal Tap" one character boasted about his custom-made amplifiers:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4xgx4k83zzc

Nigel Tufnel: The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and...

Marty DiBergi: Oh, I see. And most amps go up to ten?

Nigel Tufnel: Exactly.

Marty DiBergi: Does that mean it's louder? Is it any louder?

Nigel Tufnel: Well, it's one louder, isn't it? It's not ten. You see, most blokes, you know, will be playing at ten. You're on ten here, all the way up, all the way up, all the way up, you're on ten on your guitar. Where can you go from there? Where?

Marty DiBergi: I don't know.

Nigel Tufnel: Nowhere. Exactly. What we do is, if we need that extra push over the cliff, you know what we do?

Marty DiBergi: Put it up to eleven.

Nigel Tufnel: Eleven. Exactly. One louder.

Marty DiBergi: Why don't you just make ten louder and make ten be the top number and make that a little louder?

Nigel Tufnel: [pause] These go to eleven.

This film was only moderately successful when it came out, but gathered quite a cult following subsequently, and so for people from Anglo-phonic countries of a certain age there is a running joke that the highest possible number for anything is 11.

So to be "snooze factor eleven" isn't just to be boring, but to pull out all the stops and really go all out at being as boring as possible.

  • 1
    This answer is: wrong! – Fattie Jun 12 '15 at 4:13
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    @JoeBlow well, you make a strong and compelling case. – Jon Hanna Jun 12 '15 at 4:22
  • :) Was typing. it's half-wrong TBC. – Fattie Jun 12 '15 at 4:25
  • The first part of this answer is precisely, as if: Imagine an alien had landed and asked "Why do I hear 'The Beatles' referred to so much?" and you had very carefully explained that it's a reference to musical beats --- other than mentioning, perhaps in passing, that it was "the world's top pop band of a century." Good grief. – Fattie Jun 12 '15 at 9:16
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    - Although, since electronic devices no longer have antediluvian features like DIALS, I wonder if the humor of this excerpt is lost to the younger generation. When I tell young people that the only reason my parents had me was so someone could change the channel, they look at me like I'm off my meds. – Oldbag Jun 12 '15 at 9:41
3

Is 'snooze factor' a common English word?

Remember in the era of Star Wars, it was very common to riff on "Start Wars"? So, headline writers and article writers would have "Xyz Wars" to the point of overuse.

Today in all English-speaking regions "The X-Factor" is a huge TV show franchize. It is common to riff on the name .. so, sleeze factor, etc. Here "snooze factor".

It is especially common in writing about media (as here), writing about other TV shows (as here), and writing originating from media critics (as here).

"Why should it be “Eleven” ..."

"Eleven", "turn to eleven", "it goes to eleven" etc - from This is Spinal Tap - is, along with let's say "Don't Panic" (from Hitchhiker's Guide) or "We're not worthy!" (from Wayne's World) one of the most famous comic references in English in recent times. 100% of native speakers are familiar with the joke.

  • Hi Shannon. the final sentence was extremely slightly ambiguous: like almost all sentences in English it could be read more than one way. Since you kindly bothered to leave a comment about it, I quickly edited it slightly. "Where did the dog bite you" (i.e. "on the ass" or "on Main street") is a famous exemplar of such ambiguity in English, so I typed that as a kind of head-nod to your comment. thanks again – Fattie Feb 24 '16 at 1:28

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