Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Whenever you see two numbers ...

Today's double play of J4400 bromides comes from Sunday's NYT front, an extended-cutline-and-reefer way of using display art to get into a big inside story. Under the hed "For Americans, more angst at the pump," the first graf concludes:

Who hasn't heard laments over a $50 fill-up for a 15-gallon tank?

(Raising hand tentatively) I haven't. The price was still hanging around $2.80 (about $42 for the notional 15-gallon tank) when I drove in this ayem. And even if the woman in the photo is going for the hi-test, there's a good chance she hasn't either. If her engine coughed out at the entrance to the station and she coasted bone-dry to the pumps, that fill-up would have cost slightly less than $49.

Those J4400 lessons, should you be studying for your final:
1) Whenever you see two numbers, do something to them.
2) Never assume that your audience sees things the way you do. Indeed, had the elite NYT reefer-writers read their own damn story (oops -- that'd be Lesson 3, wouldn't it?), they would have noticed that a Manhattan-centric generalization was a singularly bad fit for a national roundup.

Moral(s), in reverse order: RTFS. Don't generalize from n=your friends. Go forth and multiply.


Anonymous Amy Fiscus said...

When I read that headline, I imagined the copyed thinking, "Hmm. Gas prices ... pain at the pump. Nope, that sounds too much like TV. Let me get my thesaurus. ... Ooooh, angst!"

It was just a little ... obvious. On the other hand, there really are only 3.5 ways to say "Gas costs more than it did before."

7:19 PM, May 03, 2006  
Blogger fev said...

When I see "angst," I expect -- at the very least -- Liv Ullmann reminding me that beyond this place of wrath and tears looms something totally Lutheran.

OK, maybe Maud Hansson. But not "an extra dollar and a half to fill your tank." Sheez.

10:17 PM, May 03, 2006  

Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home