There’s a basic Law of Journalese that requires all large areas of wildfires, floods, or other catastrophes to be compared to the area of the state of Rhode Island. This law was flagrantly broken on July 13, 2017, in a story about the world’s largest iceberg created when a chunk of the Antarctica broke loose. Boston’s WBZ radio news, and most likely other media, reported the iceberg as “larger than the State of Delaware.”
This comparison undoubtedly shocked 99% of Americans who had no idea how large Delaware is, not to mention having no idea where it is. After all, who cares about runners-up? Delaware is the second smallest state, after the prize winner, Rhode Island.
Obviously, the reporter should have followed the Journalese Law, and said the iceberg is twice the size of Rhode Island, since 99% of Americans certainly know exactly how large Rhode Island is, 1,214 square miles, as well as being able to easily pinpoint it on a map of America, as long as state names are plainly printed.
OK, Delaware, at 2,057 square miles, is not quite twice as large as Rhode Island, but an iceberg twice the size of Rhode Island sounds far more humungous than a dinky Delaware ice cube.
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