A Spreading Epidemic

“If it was true that lower taxes for the rich and more wealth for the wealthy led to job creation, today we would be drowning in jobs.” – U.S. billionaire Nick Hanauer


I was going to advocate the resuscitation of the semicolon, which is nearing death in America; however, an even more important cause came to my attention yesterday.

Use of the definite article before highway numbers is steadily spreading across the country from the original source of infection in Los Angeles, perhaps carried by fleas but most probably by that more noxious vector, television.  I am sad to report that i have recently diagnosed a case of it in England, as the translator of Geert Mak’s splendid In America uses it throughout the book.  On page 403, there is a quotation from Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath that reads, speaking of Route 66, “All of these people are in flight, and they come to the 66 from the tributary side roads…”  I utterly refused to believe Steinbeck wrote “the 66”, partly because i don’t think that usage existed in the 1930’s and also because Steinbeck was born and raised in Salinas and lived in Los Angeles only very briefly.

I looked for the quotation by first searching on the string “they come to the 66” and got nothing.  Then i searched on “all of these people are in flight”.  Sure enough, the very first hit was to that line in Google Bookswhich gave me Steinbeck’s actual wording, “they come into 66”.  Ha!  Q.E.D., a neologism retrofitted by a Brit translator into The Grapes of Wrath.  An outrage.  Furthermore, that translator takes it to a level to which i doubt even Los Angeleans stoop – “The Interstate 40”.

Gag me with a spoon.  Is nothing sacred?  We must quarantine the British Isles before this plague crosses the Channel to the continent.

Ahhh, but wait, upon a bit of epidemiological research i discovered this hideous usage was already well established in England, they routinely referring to “the A6”.  Sigh.  So now i’m speculating that patient zero was in England and the plague leaped from there to Los Angeles.

Clearly it’s too late to save England, but i’m hoping that barriers can be put into place to prevent the spread of this epidemic from Southern California to the rest of this country.  Certainly we here in San Francisco are doing our best, and i recently made a donation to the UCSF Medical School to fund research into a vaccine.

Meanwhile, a photo of the lower 25 floors of the Millennium Tower, etc.  Reflected on the tower is 100 First Plaza.

Millennium tower, etc.


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