Stet by Ria Bacon

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

An unfortunate juxtaposition

On the way to work yesterday, I picked up one of the free "newspapers" that are the main source of written information for most commuters. The paper, Leggo, was once recommended to me as being the most newsworthy of the freebies.

Here's the breakdown of yesterday's paper: ten of the 24 pages are ads; four pages are about the Pope; one page of "news" (e.g. Stoccardo man dismembered by samurai sword); three pages of Entertainment & Society; one of games and horoscopes; four pages of sports; and one of TV schedules.

Italians are not great readers.

In response, I've heard Italians say, "The British read so much, they sometimes forget to wash."

My coworker, R2OB1, just reminded me how difficult it is to find current Italian literature. One of the first books she read in Italian was presented as a Bridget Jones-type novel and came with a bookmark from Nescafé. Every few pages, the characters would stop for a ... Nescafé, and all the places they went to in Milan were marked on a fold-out map at the end of the book: "Where to find Nescafé in Milan".

In all fairness to Italy, however, reading stats are pretty grim for other countries too (US, UK and Italy). By coincidence, the European regional meeting on literacy ends today (link).

What got me started on this post were two bizarre examples of English from the free paper yesterday. The first was the headline,
Mega camping per i Papa Boys
about hosting the anticipated masses of youth (boys only?) heading for Rome this week. The odd choice of words would set off alarm bells in English-speaking countries.

The other bizarre example was this unfortunate juxtaposition of words and image.

Awkward juxtaposition