or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Sunday, July 10, 2005

Where There's Smokes

It's true: the pun really is the lowest form of wit, at least if you can't spell.

One of the sections in this weekend's National Post--I didn't buy it! I was just flicking through it in a fast-food joint!--had this headline for a pointless style service piece:

Cast your beedy eyes on these beady beauties

I...what? What the hell? Did someone actually think that "beedy" was a word? That it was a word that had something to do with eyes but nothing to do with beads, and was therefore usable in a cute, punning headline (along the lines of Paul Fussell's properly loathed USA Today headline "Deer Nibbling At Once-Dear Image")?

For the record, "beady", when referring to eyes, means "small and shiny". Bead; a small, shiny thing: "beady"; the adjectival form of "bead", using a standard suffix. Nothing odd or arcane about it: beady eyes are beady because they look like beads. "Beedy", though, is simply a mistake. It's wrong: not infrequently used, but still wrong. (Not that anyone would be surprised to see mistakes creeping into the National Post.) I hesitate to say that it's not a word, since it exists and people use it, but it's as close to being a non-word as I can imagine, as it exists only because people make and perpetuate stupid mistakes. I hope that whoever saw that headline before publication and did nothing to stop it gets a good hard smack in the chops. They're writers and editors; they're supposed to know better.

There is no such (correct) word as "beedy", but there is such a word as "beedie", otherwise known as "bidi", or "biri" with a rolled "-r-". It's a little cigarette imported from India.

Since I like to think about numbers as well as words, I was a bit shocked to see this assertion on this web page:

More than 700 Trillion BEEDIES or BIRIĀ are smoked annually, with the numbers increasing phenomenally every year.

Seven hundred trillion. My, that is impressive. Let's just deconstruct that number, shall we? A trillion is one thousand billions. There are about six billion people on the face of the Earth. A lot of those people don't smoke, because they're children or non-smokers or whatnot, but let's pretend half of the population of the planet smokes, and that every one of them smokes beedies and nothing but. (This will come as a shock to RJ Reynolds and Philip Morris.) Three billion people smoking one trillion beedies a year means each of them smokes 333 a year, or about one a day. Three billion people smoking seven hundred trillion beedies a year means they each smoke about 639 beedies a day, or one every minute and a half for the entirety of a sixteen-hour day. I haven't noticed huge hordes of chain-smoking beedie addicts where I live. And how do they afford them? How can they hold down a job when all their time is spent buying, lighting, smoking, and extinguishing? Where do they find the time to shower?

Innumeracy: just as bad as illiteracy.


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