The Economist’s Blunder

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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:

Sir:

“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.

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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. You can find me on Twitter` and Facebook. My email is edmarklaw@learnfunfacts.com

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