Friday, September 28, 2007

The power of positive thinking

Nick Coleman's column today was about "crumbling bridge" terminology. Ever since the article in the Strib a few days ago about how current engineering terminology like "structurally deficient" was scaring the public, Spot has been thinking about how the Pepsodent administration would try to soften the blow. Nick Coleman told us how this morning in Faith-based bridges:

The Minneapolis bridge was one of 70,000 "structurally deficient" bridges in the country that Americans have worried about. So government officials are going to make us stop worrying. Not by fixing bridges -- that would cost billions -- but with smoke and mirrors and baloney.

Here's their idea: Change the terms. State highway officials want engineers to stop scaring us with spooky labels. You may have thought it was the sight of cars in the water and crying people trapped under tons of concrete and twisted steel girders that scared us. Nope. It was the terminology.

So our highway departments have rolled up their sleeves and, with American know-how and a "can-do" attitude, have begun a rebranding effort to lull us back to sleep.

No more unpleasant labels such as "structurally deficient." We need something soothing.

I suggest calling them "Ready For Rapid Gravity Removal" bridges. That's what happened to our "structurally deficient" bridge. It fell down. And it killed people. Or perhaps I should say, it lowered itself into a river and some citizens were inconvenienced.

Brave leaders, including Gov. Tim Pawlenty and Lt. Gov. Carol Molnau, who also serves as Boss of Highway Construction, have done little more than pose for pictures while avoiding responsibility and robbing money from other overdue and underfunded highway projects to try to pony up the front money for a new I-35W bridge. They can't keep the state highway headquarters from falling down, but they are re-engineering English.

They have priorities.

One brave new wordsmith at MnDOT asked this: If car dealers call used cars "previously owned," why can't we find a term for "structurally deficient" that isn't unpleasant?

And as Nick points out, new terminology is much cheaper than actually fixing the bridges! It's that kind of innovation that will propel Governor Pepsodent far in his quest for national office, or at least a Republican nomination.

Spot was sure he had a John Ralston Saul quotation on the subject in the computer here somewhere, but he can't find it. Maybe later.

Meanwhile, there are interesting developments out here in Cakeville, boys and girls, about which Spot will have more to say later.

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