Saturday, March 03, 2007

Can anybody write for Business Week?

I received a recent Business Week article through my Yahoo alerts last week. Here is the headline and lead-in:

"Poor Language Skills Hurting EU Firms

Brussels says the bloc's global competitiveness is at stake, as 11% of small businesses have lost out on revenue thanks to foreign language deficiencies "

Lost out on revenue thanks to foreign language deficiencies?

This phrase really sounds wrong to me. Isn't "thanks to" generally followed by something positive? Can we say "Thanks to the New Orleans flood, 80% of the city's residents were forced to leave their homes"?

I don't think so. Yet when I looked up the idiom in my own medium-sized American Heritage dictionary, doubt ensued : "thanks to: on account of, because of." This sounded very neutral. But closer research into the expression, from the American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms , confirmed my suspicions:

"On account of, because of, as in Thanks to your help, we'll be done on time. This phrase alludes to gratitude being due to someone or something."

Thanks to Business Week for encouraging me to double-check my understanding of "thanks to!"


Tinsie said...

You're right, "thanks to" is an expression of gratitude, but it can also be used in a sarcastic tone, which I suspect is why some dictionaries don't make its positive meaning explicit.

BTW when I'm stuck for a quick answer I tend to consult I find it's usually pretty good.

Anonymous said...

Reminds me of "grâce à" and "à cause de." Nuances, nuances.