The ice shelf as big as ...

What the foreign papers are saying.
March 22 2002 12:17 PM

An Ice Cube the Size of Cambridgeshire

"[A] Rhode Island-size piece of the floating ice fringe along a fast-warming region of Antarctica" is the way Wednesday's New York Times described that rapidly disintegrating monster iceberg. Beyond America's borders, U.S. states aren't the most useful geographic points of reference. Britain's Times pegged the 1,250-square-mile ice shelf as the size of Cambridgeshire, while the Telegraph compared it to Somerset. For the Scotsman it was "larger than the Western Isles," and in New Zealand, the Christchurch Press put it at "five times the size of Lake Taupo." The Irish Times estimated that the sheet of ice was "bigger than counties Dublin and Meath." (How much bigger? The paper didn't say.) France's Libération said it was "equivalent to the area of Vaucluse, or of Yvelines and the Val-d'Oise combined." Spain's El Mundo cited "the province of Alava," and La Nación of Argentina put it at "17 times the size of the city of Buenos Aires."

Slips of the tongue: Premiers say the darndest things. The Guardian reported that  after last weekend's European Union summit in Barcelona, TV cameras picked up British Prime Minister Tony Blair telling Foreign Secretary Jack Straw, "It is, as ever, a joy," in a tone so ironic it was clear he found EU diplomacy anything but. On Thursday, several Spanish papers led on Prime Minister José María Aznar's indiscretions before the European Parliament in Brussels. As delegates applauded after Aznar's 25-minute speech about the Barcelona summit, he turned to a Spanish colleague and uttered, "Vaya coñazo que he soltado!" in a voice loud enough to be picked up by microphones serving the interpretation services and press room. Loosely translated, Aznar simply said, "What a drag I just got through," but literally a coñazo is a big coño, and a coño is the part of the female anatomy Eve Ensler wrote monologues about. El País and El Mundo put the offending word in their headlines, and El Mundo even provided an audio clip of Aznar's faux pas (unfortunately, the clip is no longer available), proving that different countries stigmatize very different words.

June Thomas is a Slate culture critic and editor of Outward, Slate’s LGBTQ section. 

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