Friday, November 26, 2004

But Either Way, It Makes You Think 

Why you, too, should read more Harpers:
What they say: I hear what you say.
What is understood: He accepts my point of view.
What they mean: I disagree and do not want to discuss it any further.

p. 28. One of several excerpts from a guide "intended to help foreigners understand the idiosynchrasies of British English, found by a journalist for The Economist earlier this year on an office wall in the European Court of Justice."

I'd add that, in English business and theraputic environments, overuse of this phrase can result in a firm but mistaken belief in the speaker's mind that what he/she really means is "I personally disagree but respect your position as objectively valid." Such self-delusion makes the phrase exceedingly dangerous; those who are subjected to it by managers are encouraged to take deep breaths and keep their resumes updated.

Why you should read it with a grain of salt:

Minimum number of bullets that the US Military purchased for use this year: 1,500,000,000
Avergae number of bullets per Iraqi this represents: 58

p. 13. Immediately subsequent entries found in Harper's Index obviously intended to create a false impression that military spending is out of proportion with need.

Comparison of global orders with one single conflict is in no way conducive to accurate understanding of this issue. Less misleading juxtaposition would require consideration of numbers of bullets needed in conflict and in practice, and take into account issues such as stockpiling and actual bullet-per-hit combat ratios.

Both readings found in the December 2004 issue of Harpers Magazine which, in keeping with their commitment to the literate reader, does not print (much) content online, but does present each month's cover art and table of contents , a drool-worthy teaser. Your local library has a copy if you don't want to buy your own.

posted by boyhowdy | 9:48 PM |

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