Sloppiest caption as measured by cumulative metric odour over the course of 12 decibels

January 19th, 2009
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“The Port of Vancouver is the largest port in Canada and on the West Coast of North America by metric tons of total cargo. But even its volumes are shrinking.” – photo caption, Financial Post, Friday, January 16, 2009

This has to be among the sloppiest captions – ounce for kilometer – ever driven. Beginning with “metric tons”, an obvious spelling error. Second, since port activity is evidently being ranked by weight, then it would also be the largest by pounds, ounces, grams, stone, hundredweight and German zentner. Third, the qualifier “handled annually” is missing, since we hope it’s not the largest by metric tons sitting unprocessed dockside (although given Vancouver’s record, it could well be).

Finally, the last sentence is a non sequitur. Who cares if “even its” volumes are shrinking? If it handled fewer containers of foam sumo-wrestler suits (or other bulky but light items) while processing more shiploads of automobiles, then presumably it could retain and even extend its lead as measured by weight even as its volumes declined. The caption sloppily switches, without actually saying so, from ranking ports by weight to ranking them by cubic metre or number of containers.

Four errors packed into one caption. Another instance of how the proverbial 60-something broken-down visor-wearing snarling old copy editor, long since purged from the newsrooms of the nation, is remembered chiefly by the unfortunate effects of his absence. Nowadays, he is us.

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By George Koch