Monday, August 01, 2011

spot the error

Seen in an online news article:

"Chicago’s GDP rivals Switzerland."

Did you find the error? (I've been working with kids on SAT Writing skills, so this one leaps right out at me.)



SJHoneywell said...

I see it.

Horace Jeffery Hodges said...

Easy! Should be:

"Chicago GDP rivals Switzerland."

No, wait -- "GDP" is plural:

"Chicago's GDP rival Switzerland."

Wait. Too many apostrophes:

"Chicagos GDP rivals Switzerland."

Wait. Too many esses:

"Chicago GDP rival Witzerland."

Wait. Too much GDP:

"Chicago's rivals Switzerland."

Wait. Too many words:


Jeffery Hodges

* * *

Kevin Kim said...

Dr. Hodges arrives at solutions apophatically.

Elisson said...

Chicago, not being a country, does not have a GDP (Gross Domestic Product). It has a Gross Municipal Product.

Having said that, if you elect to go with "GDP" anyway, the correct usage is "Chicago's GDP rivals that of Switzerland." Gotta compare apples and apples, so to speak.

Kevin Kim said...

OK, no one else is giving this a shot, so I'll slap up the official answer:

The sentence is an example of a faulty comparison. In this case, a city's GDP is being compared to a country. Like needs to be compared with like, so we need to rework the sentence. Two possible corrections:

1. Chicago's GDP rivals that of Switzerland.

2. Chicago's GDP rivals Switzerland's.

Both corrections would be ETS-approved, for whatever that's worth: they now legitimately compare a large city's GDP with the GDP of a country.

Many students fail to detect this sort of mistake, and to be honest, if I'm not careful, I'll gloss over such mistakes myself. The problem is that we employ faulty comparisons all the time in spoken English and think nothing of it, because the essential information gets communicated regardless of the sentence structure.

Tangent: that, to me, is the real challenge facing AI builders: how to deal with the little hitches in communication that we, as non-literal users of language, easily bypass on our way to the correct understanding of our interlocutors' intended meanings.

Kevin Kim said...

Good point, Elisson. GMP versus GDP isn't something I would have picked up on.

I was typing my comment when you sent yours, which is why, in my previous comment (11:30PM) it appears that I've rudely ignored what you said. Sorry about that.

Elisson said...

@Kevin - No apology necessary - our comments crossed in the e-mail, proving once again that great minds think alike. (Or, at least that our minds think alike.)

It always used to drive me crazy (a short drive, BTW) whenever I would ride the rental car bus at Houston's Bush Intercontinental Airport. The prerecorded announcement would always begin, "For your safety, and those around you..." Same grammatical miscue as the one cited in your post, but made even more grating by my knowing that it was one of the first things visitors would hear upon arriving in Houston. Phooey.