or, stuff that I dragged out of my head

Location: Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada

Thursday, June 22, 2006

Slice and Dice

The front page of the local paper bore the following headline today, which I don't know how to feel about:

Saint John pays less for energy than us

(Saint John is another New Brunswick city about an hour and a half from here.)

On the one hand, the pronoun is wrong. It ought to be "we", subject versus object pronouns, implicit verb "do", blah blah blah.

On the other hand, though, the headline sounds more natural to the modern ear, which allows us a little leeway with pronouns, but only a little. Do we, after all, say "it's I?" Some of us probably do, but more people are going to say "it's me", which is well-established and idiomatic. Even I do this, and I know better.

On the other hand, newspapers ought to write a little better than the average person speaks: they ought to hold themselves to a higher standard and act as exemplars for the language. They ought not to strive to be the lowest common denominator.

So, as I said, I don't know how to feel. It's wrong, but everyone does it!


Regular reader Tony Pius wrote in a comment to yesterday's post regarding the French word "tranche" and its offspring in English:

As well as the ineffable "tranche" -- rhymes with "launch" -- which is used in high finance.

You see, people buy up a whole bunch of mortgages, bundle them together into half-billion dollar chunks, and then slice up the interest and principal being repaid on those mortgages and sell off to investors pieces of each slice. Each such slice is a "tranche."

You can Google on "collateralized mortgage obligations" if you burn to know more, but it's pretty brain-hurty. Or you can go read Michael Lewis's excellent book Liar's Poker, which covers it in passing.

Actually, I think that what you just said is all I will ever need to know on the subject. (I don't have much of a head for finance; it is indeed brain-hurty stuff for me.) But seriously, thanks: I like to know everything, and this actually is pretty interesting. I do wonder how the word made it, intact, into English. Did we borrow it from French financiers, or did someone think it sounded classy?

Tranchette, you may also be interested to know, is the name of a French-Canadian dish, according to The Bad For You Cookbook, which I very much recommend: ignore the snippy, pretentious review from Publishers Weekly and just buy it. Tranchette is made by frying white bread in butter, pouring maple syrup over it, and then pouring warm cream--a half-cup per serving!--over that. Not something most of us would eat every day (and I think I can hear nutritionists all over the continent passing out), but Quebecois cuisine does tend towards the hearty and high-fat. (Only they could have invented poutine.)


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