Wednesday, December 22, 2004


This is an example of me being a bit nitpicky, but anyhow, I don't understand why newpapers on both sides of the Atlantic regularly do unnecessary alterations to stories that come from overseas. This recent story of the Northern Ireland bank heist is a perfect example. All American news outlets are reporting that "$39 million was stolen," when in fact it was 20 million pounds sterling that was stolen. If you are discussing somebody's wealth or a company's net worth, then I can understand converting it to the currency of the country that the newspaper serves, because it is easier for readers to understand the amount and all that is important is the value anyway. But in this case, the amount stolen should refer to the actual items stolen, which in this case were pounds. So unless the thieves stole 20 million pounds from the vault and then walked over to the bureau de change and enquired as to the conversion rates, it's a mistake to be referring to $39 million being stolen. You might as well say that they stole 39 million Lotto tickets or 39 million copies of the NYT.

I've noticed an analogous trend in British newspapers, wherein quotes from American officials are often peppered with Britishisms that you know weren't in the original quotes.

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