Daily Frolic 29: Meaning the exact opposite

“Surely, that’s child abuse!”

“What do you mean? Not yet another case of sexual …”

“No, no, no, this one’s totally unique; at least I haven’t heard about anything like that!”

“Gosh, it sounds serious.”

“It is, it is – and to think that a quality newspaper … you said this Sunday Times was a quality newspaper, didn’t you?”

“I did, I did.”

“To think that it openly encourages child abuse – it’s disgusting!”

“Encourages child abuse – The Sunday Times? You must be joking.”

“I wish I were, I wish I were.”

“So how are they doing this, exactly?”

“Well, they used to have this health-advice section, apparently.”

“Oh yes, yes, I remember: in the Style section.”

“Exactly; I’ve found a copy in your archives. People would write letters asking for advice, and this expert would advise them.”

“I do remember; so?”

“So one piece of advice went like this.”   

 “Zinc has been linked to delayed growth, so give your children 5mg a day each.”

 “Hmm, I don’t actually know all that much about zinc, to be honest. Perhaps the children were suffering from gigantism …”

“Gigantism?”

“You know, when people produce too much growth hormone and grow too tall.”

“No, no, no – this letter was from a short Malaysian lady whose children were, apparently, below average height. That’s what she said, anyway.”

“O-o-o-o, I s-e-e-e-e, ha, ha, ha!”

“What’s so funny?”

“Well, they must have meant the exact opposite, mustn’t they?”

“Are you sure?”

“Yep, what they must have been trying to say is this.”  

 Zinc has been linked to promoting [OR enhancing] growth, so give your children 5mg a day each.

 “A-a-a-a …”

“Or perhaps this.”

 Zinc deficiency has been linked to delayed growth, so give your children 5mg of zinc a day each.

 “If you’re sure …”

“Positive.”

“Thank goodness for that.”

“But saying the exact opposite to what you are trying to say is not all that uncommon.”

“It isn’t?”

“Nope. Take this, for example. From The Economist.”

 “Fewer people with less disposable income is bad news for shopkeepers.”

 “Isn’t it?”

“No, of course not: it’s good news for shopkeepers.”

“Why?”

“Because if fewer people have less disposable income, then more people will have more disposable income, won’t they?”

“Hmm …”

“But I suspect that what they were trying to say was this.”

 Fewer people and less disposable income are bad news for shopkeepers.

 “Are you sure?”

“Well, it can hardly be anything else. Look, there is a pattern to such illogical reasoning.”

“There is?”

“Yep; this is from The Sunday Times.”

 “Buying fewer clothes that are easy to wash could cut your emissions down.”

 “Couldn’t it?”

“No, no: what would help would be buying more clothes that are easy to wash – not fewer. But they could also have meant this.”

 Buying fewer clothes, and only those that are easy to wash, could cut your emissions down.

 “I s-e-e-e …”

“And that’s what they wrote in The Independent.”

 “Losses are very important to the small grower.”

 “Grower of what?”

“It doesn’t matter of what – of anything that makes you money. The point is that they meant the exact opposite.”

 Preventing losses is very important to the small grower.

 “Oh dear.”

“And, a few days ago, that’s what I heard on BBC News at Six.”

 “We don’t want mis-selling mortgages to the wrong people.”

 “You mean they reckon it’s OK to mis-sell mortgages to the right people?”

“You got it! What this expert was undoubtedly trying to say was this.”

 We don’t want selling mortgages to the wrong people.

 “Blimey, they do get muddled.”

“Don’t they just?”

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