Thursday, September 19, 2013

Yahoo! Rudeness

Time for a rant.

Today on Yahoo! News there was a video story about a woman whose minivan was returned to her by an Edmonton repair shop with an additional 1400 km on the odometer.

Ok story, nothing major, the shop apologized and is sending her a check as recompense.

Why then did the reporter on the story feel compelled to make jokes about the fact that this Canadian woman found 1400 "kilometers" extra? The Yahoo! reporter (and presumably the producer too) had to stop and issue the very stupid remark, "can we get that in American?"

A bright title card appeared giving the measurement in miles. Later, the same reporter mentioned that the woman was expecting a check...but then felt necessary to say "or a cheque", mispronouncing the word, adding a 'kwe' ending and making it two syllables. Also putting the Canadian spelling up in a title card with the comment that it was a "weird spelling".

For some reason, this was a sufficiently final straw to me that I felt it necessary to deliver feedback to Yahoo! about this. Here is my comment to them:

WRT a recent story about a woman from Edmonton who had an issue with a repair shop and her minivan: Your Yahoo! video reporters tend to make fun of people using the metric system or spelling things differently than is done in the US. It is offensive. 
Making a comment about "can we get that in American?" when reporting something a Canadian said about distance in kilometers make Americans sound stupid, uneducated, bigoted, jingoistic, and unwashed. 
There is no such thing as 'American' units of measure. In the USA the outdated 'Imperial' system which originated in England in 1824 is mostly used (with some exceptions pre-dating that time). 
Most of the rest of the world (including Britain and the rest of the UK) understands and uses the metric system and your stories would do well to simply present the measurements in both systems without comment. The same is true for comments about the "weird spelling" of 'cheque'. A comment that was unnecessary and a deliberate mispronunciation that was rude. All your reporter does is embarrass the United States and its citizenry. 
There is nothing wrong with the USA using a system of measurements different from the rest of the world, aside from the occasional vastly expensive mistake (Mars Climate Orbiter, 1999). But making rude jokes about the majority of the rest of the world merely denigrates the US. 
The words 'check' and cheque' are pronounced the same. Making a joke about Canadians' "weird spelling" is like making a joke about the fact that in Thailand a 'boutique' is spelled 'butik'. Is that funny? Or racist?
The Mars Climate Orbiter I referenced, for those who do not recall this amazing gaffe, was a US$125 million spacecraft which was lost because one engineering group used the US system of units in miles rather than the Système International units of kilometers (the system understood to be used throughout the scientific community and in almost every other country in the world). 125 million US dollars lost because someone forgot to mention the need for a 1.6 conversion factor ... or to do it the way the rest of the world does it.

I don't really mind that the US continues to use a confusing and outdated system of measurement (how many cups in a gallon? how many yards in a furlong?), if that is what the US wants to do and the costly mistakes that it entails are not important to the US people and government, but to make jokes about other people's use of a sensible, easy to understand, and world wide system makes US look stupid.

To take pride in such ignorance is even worse. To feel resentment for the rest of the world not understanding OUR way is imperialistic.

To deliberately mention and then mispronounce the word 'cheque' (even though it is pronounced exactly as our own word 'check' should make any international viewers of Yahoo! News cringe. I know it did me.