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2:42pm on Thursday, 22nd September, 2005:

Even Worse English


I had the TV on in my hotel room this morning, tuned to the BBC. At one point, there was a 5-minute slot between children's programmes called Bad Science. Today's example of bad science was the phrase "too many cooks spoil the broth". Proof: they got two bowls of broth, and had one stirred by just one person and the other stirred by lots of people in series. Amazingly, both resulting broths tasted the same! Therefore, the saying is bad science.

Well, if the saying were "too many people stirring in series spoils the broth", maybe it would be bad science. However, that's nt what "too many cooks spoil the broth" means. What it means is that if too many people claim responsibility for a task, they get in each other's way and make a worse job than if just one person did it. Whoever chose this particular saying to illustrate bad science was instead illustrating their own bad understanding of idiom.

What next? "We took 20 mickles, melted them down and just got a big glob of metal. Therefore, the saying 'many a mickle makes a muckle' is wrong — it's bad science"?

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Copyright © 2005 Richard Bartle (richard@mud.co.uk).