Saturday, January 2, 2010

Learn a little lesson from our friend the Tasmanian Devil

There it was, on Page 4A of the St. Paul Pioneer Press, on the first day of 2010:

Tasmanian Devil Ill Revealed
WASHINGTON -- Fierce as they are, Tasmanian devils can't beat a contagious cancer that threatens to wipe them out. Now scientists think they've found the disease's origin, a step in the race to save Australia's snarling marsupial. The furry black animals spread a fast-killing cancer when they bite each other's faces. Since the disease's discovery in 1996, their numbers have plummeted by 70 percent. Last spring, Australia listed the devils--made famous by their Looney Tunes cartoon namesake Taz--as an endangered species. The surprise finding, reported in today's edition of the journal Science, has led to development of a test to help diagnose the tumor.

Forget for a moment how the title of this short article calls into question whether the thing that ails Tasmanian devils was revealed or whether a Tasmanian devil was revealed rather badly. There's a more important turn of phrase to skewer here.

Did you notice it?

Since the disease's discovery in 1996, their numbers have plummeted by 70 percent.

So...the thing that's killing off the Tasmanian devils isn't cancer...it's the discovery of the disease! Before the scientists stuck their noses into it, things were swimming along just fine, but nooooo...They of the Sacred Lab Coats had to go and make a discovery! Now the TDs are racing toward extinction!

Put this in the list of Things That Are Worse Than They Were Because Now There's a Name for It...right along with Swine Flu, Attention Deficit Disorder, and Pre-Menstrual Syndrome.

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