Sunday, March 20, 2011


The physicist Torahiko Terada wrote in 1934, “The more civilization progresses, the greater the violence of nature’s wrath.” Nearly 67 years later, his words appear prescient.

As we're told, the articles collected under the hed are translated from the Japanese. That doesn't mean they don't have to be edited in English. Again, we can't tell from here if it's a mistake in the original, an error by the translator or a random slip of the finger somewhere. But we should be reminded that whenever two numbers occur in this sort of relationship, an editing subroutine has to kick in: Does A plus (or minus, or times, or gazinta) B add up to what we say it does?

There's a clue in the second part that might have helped: a reference to Hirohito's "radio address at the end of World War II, 66 years ago." Why the first is "nearly 67" and the second is an unadorned "66" (the speech in question would most likely be the one of Aug. 15, 1945, so it's hard to see why one is less "nearly" than the other) is a mystery. Maybe it's the general fear in news style of beginning a sentence with a number. But sometimes, what we don't notice is as interesting as what we do.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

The sad thing is, even if you get the math right, that "nearly 67 years later" doesn't tell the readers anything they don't already know. I have to wonder whether the merits of the phrase as a transition really make it worth the risk of careless arithmetic errors that it carries with it.

11:04 PM, March 20, 2011  

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