Monday, August 25, 2008


Learning 21st Century English Usage

Were I an editor, I would have edited this:
Shares in Maple Leaf Foods, which expanded a nationwide recall of its cold cuts over the weekend after its products were linked to four deaths and dozens of illness, fell to their lowest level in seven years during trading on Monday.

I don't think that were linked to four deaths and dozens of illness is correct or comprehensible: there are dozens and dozens of illnesses, but most likely we are meant to understand "dozens of instances of illness" or "dozens of cases of illness."

The article concludes with some helpful advice:

The widening of the recall is leading to some confusion among consumers about what meat products are safe. Over the weekend, Tony Clement, the federal health minister, suggested that Canadians who have doubts about the providence of the cold cuts in their refrigerators should simply throw the food out.

Canadians who have doubts about the provenance of the cold cuts in their refrigerators should do the same.

Thanks to the article Shares Fall as Maple Leaf Expands Meat Recall By IAN AUSTEN in the New York Times for these challenges to my linguistic adaptability.

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Thursday, August 07, 2008


No Hope Without Dope

James Fallows commented a little while ago on American cyclists arriving in China for the Olympic Games wearing masks ("About those U.S. cyclists with gas masks". I think that, if they didn't have those masks off well before they arrived at passport control, and without being asked, they should have been sent off for biometric testing, DNA samples, etc. Rules are rules, even for Americans (who don't believe in the Court in The Hague, nor banning munitions like land mines, etc.): if they don't look like their passport photo, give them the choice of the next plane home or tests, tests, tests. What arrogance!

And I don't think they were "gas masks" at all, more like the lastest way to absorb undetectable doping agents, if I may hazard a guess (and only a guess). Did they have a chance without doping?

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Wednesday, August 06, 2008


Bison Futé

In past articles on France and the French, Sebastian Rotella, Los Angeles Times Staff Writer, has written things that were incorrect or misleading; his article today (France's August traffic jam) is balanced and researched, I am pleased to note. I would just like to add one "footnote" to what he wrote about "Bison Futé."

In 1976, news reports about worsening highway problems gave rise to a robust culture of road information. The cartoon icon for the last 32 years has been Bison Fute (Clever Buffalo), a plucky Native American warrior who fills the radio, Internet and other media with updates on road conditions and safety tips.

In France, alternate routes are called "routes bis" and indicated by special signs. The first person plural (present tense) of common verbs is formed with the ending "-ons"; so, for instance, "let's drink" is buvons and "let's stop" is arrêtons. "em>Bison futé sounds like "let's cleverly take alternate routes."

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