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Thursday, June 17, 2010

Lost in Translation: Svanberg Looks out for Small People... a.k.a., "The Little Guy"

I was going to let BP chief Carl-Henric Svanberg's comment about the "small people" go without comment. I just heard SDPB's Gary Ellenbolt make a little editorial hay between segments, likening Svanberg's word choice to Leona Helmsley's infamous comment about "little people" paying taxes. (Dang: some British press is going there, too: just Google "Svanberg Helmsley"to track the meme.)

For Pete's sake, people, I'm the biggest anti-corporate commie in South Dakota, and I'm willing to take Svanberg's apology at face value. Svanberg is Swedish. His words were nothing more than a clumsy reformulation of the American colloquialism, "the little guy." That phrase is arguably semantically identical to Svanberg's utterance, yet it causes no uproar in American English usage. Among the examples of such usage I can find this morning:
Related: in one of the most powerful protest songs never heard on radio, Don Henley's "A Month of Sundays" calls on us to "Pray for the independent little man,/ I don't see next year's crop."

Oh yeah, Svanberg's big oil corporation agreed to set up a $20-billion fund to compensate folks damaged by its oil spill and suspend three quarters of dividend payments while it cleans up its mess in the Gulf of Mexico. Not bad.


  1. I'm sorry, Cory; but Ellenbolt makes my butt tired. His voice made me the mprnewsq.org addict that I am today.

  2. I was at least relieved to see he wasn't the only media type drawing connections between the Svanberg and Helmsley comments. The connection is still inaccurate.

    [And in a media note, I will stick up for Ellenbolt. Too many SDPB announcers have sounded tied to the script and disconnected from where we are. Ellenbolt sounds just a bit more "live". We aren't MPR yet, but he's an improvement in that direction.]


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