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TinotopiaLog → Help Wanted: Editors ( 1 Dec 2003)
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Monday 01 December 2003

Help Wanted: Editors

Help Wanted: Editors. Apply in person at The Washington Post Company, 1150 15th Street NW, Washington, DC.

In today’s Washington Post, there’s a story about a lawyer in Luray, VA, who, in the course of what must have been a nasty divorce, has been prosecuted for criminal adultery of all things. That’s not my point, though. Deep in the story, we find this:

Like other Class 4 misdemeanors in Virginia, adultery carries a maximum penalty of a $250 fine. Bushey [the lawyer] paid half that, plus $36 in court costs. Adultery is also against the law in Maryland, where the penalty is a fine of $10, about the cost of a pecan bar and two large caramel macchiatos at Starbucks. [emphasis added]

Are there no editors left at the Post? Does no one read this stuff before they print 700,000 copies of it and send it out on the trucks? It’s common when talking about certain things, to use commonplace things as units of measure: The burned area is the size of Rhode Island. Placed end-to-end, the hot dogs would circle the Earth twice. The floor space is equivalent to three football fields. And so on.

A similar practice is handy with money, though the comparisons are usually of the giggle-inducing variety. Bill Gates’ Microsoft stock right now is worth $31,440,446,795.72. That’s meaningless to most people (including, probably, Gates himself): but it’s easier to understand if you imagine it as 209,603 Ford GTs, or 324 copies of Bill’s own house, or 154 Boeing 777-300ERs, or copies of the non-Sunday Washington Post every non-Sunday day for almost the next 288 million years. Or maybe it’s not easier to understand that way.

In any case, describing $10 by analogy strikes me as not too different from describing a new football stadium by saying that the field is ‘about’ the size of a football field, or saying “Rhode Island is a very small state, no larger than Rhode Island.”

And this analogy is particularly stupid for other reasons, too: Starbucks famously sells nothing in a size they call ‘large’, and if you ask for a ‘large’ anything there, they’ll correct you. What a normal person would call ‘small’, Starbucks calls ‘tall’. Medium is ‘grande’, i.e. Italian for large, and Large is ‘Venti’, a trademarked term that’s just the Italian word for twenty: there are twenty ounces in a ‘Venti’ anything.

Should you, for some reason, find it necessary to describe for your readers just how much $10 is worth, you might say that it’s worth about as much as this:

Ten dollars

which is a hell of a lot clearer, not to mention more accurate, than going on about some garbage from Starbucks.

Posted by tino at 12:19 1.12.03
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Come on do you really expecct any quality from the Washington Post anymore?

Posted by: Paul Johnson at December 1, 2003 04:40 PM

Do you expect any quality from any paper anymore, other than sports?

Posted by: Mr. Jupiter at May 7, 2004 12:44 PM