The Economist’s Blunder


Geoffrey K. Pullum

On March 20, 1997, linguist Geoffrey K. Pullum sent the following letter to The Economist in response to the article regarding the Russian oil pipeline problems the newspaper published a week prior:


“Connections needed” (March 15) reports that Russia’s Transneft pipeline operator is not able to separate crude flows from different oil fields: “they all come out swirled into a single bland blend.” This is quite true. And worse yet, the characterless, light-colored mix thus produced is concocted blindly, without quality oversight, surely a grave mistake. In fact, I do not recall ever encountering a blinder blander blonder blender blunder.

Pullum was not amused when The Economist did not publish his letter as Pullum felt that it was too good for the newspaper to ignore. He said that it “would have been a true first in natural language text: a normal piece of prose containing a meaningful contiguous minimal word quintuple.”

He also added, “What a myopic, blinkered clod their letters page editor must be.”

It’s a shame that they missed this little gem. As Pullum remarked, The Economist would have earned a permanent spot in the linguistic book of records (well, if such a thing exists) if the editor included the letter.


About Edmark M. Law

My name Edmark M. Law. I work as a freelance writer, mainly writing about science and mathematics. I am an ardent hobbyist. I like to read, solve puzzles, play chess, make origami and play basketball. In addition, I dabble in magic, particularly card magic and other sleight-of-hand type magic. I live in Hong Kong. I blog at You can find me on Twitter @EdmarkLaw and Facebook. My email is
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11 Responses to The Economist’s Blunder

  1. Abigail says:

    For shame, Russian Transneft pipeline operator! I don’t think The Economist would have suffered from this dose of humorous, intelligible criticism.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. There must be no conservatives at The Economist.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Jack Shalom says:

    OH, I forgot about this classic skit. I think you’ll find it relevant:

    Liked by 2 people

  4. A linguistic gem indeed!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Jack Shalom says:

    The editors must have considered the quip a silly sullied sally.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Anonymous says:

    The editor likely was envious because he or she had not thought of this him/herself!


  7. Yes, really a shame they missed it out. Very cool it truly is.

    Liked by 2 people

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