Tuesday, March 3, 2009

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

Warning: Pedantic didactism ahead. Proceed with caution.

Yesterday's topic was the snow storm and the expected media overkill reporting it. Of course, one of the obligatory scenes had the weather man out by the side of some road (with a ruler stuck down into the snowbank), talking about how well, or poorly the roads had been plowed.

So Bill Evans is standing there showing us traffic whizzing by on one of the main roads and then he has his cameraman pan over and show us an intersecting road that looks like it's barely been touched. He proceeds to tell us (and I'm paraphrasing) that the primary roads are in pretty good shape, but you should use caution on the secondary streets "or as Mayor Bloomberg likes to call them...tertiary streets". O.K., Bill didn't make little finger quotes in the air when he said tertiary, but they were in his inflection and if he hadn't been holding a microphone, I bet he would have made finger quotes. The clear implication was that Bloomberg likes to use obscure words when a perfectly simple one (like secondary) would do just as well.

Bill, you twit. Tertiary is not a substitute for secondary nor does Mayor Bloomberg use it as one. Every time he has one of these predictable "Snow Emergency" press conferences, he tells us that primary and secondary roads are all getting a lot of attention and people should please be a little more patient about tertiary roads. It means of third rank, importance, or value...and Mayor Bloomberg uses it correctly.

Bill, you either need to work on your vocabulary or you need to stick to what other people write for you. You'll look a lot smarterer that way.



John the Scientist said...

Hmmm. I would take that statement to meant that the reporter thinks that there are only 2 types of roads, and talking about "tertiary" is a neat way to sidestep the fact that you are ignoring at least some of the secondary roads. I mean, to me, tertiary roads are alleys, at least in a city.

I live on a tertiary road, but that's because I live in the sticks and my next door neighbors are a horse farm and a pack of wild coyotes.

Scripty said...

Ah, The Princess Bride, one of my FAVORITE movies!