Près de 3 300 articles de presse ont été passés au crible.

Près de 3 300 articles de presse ont été passés au crible.

pray duh trwah meel trwah sah aar-tee-kluh duh pray saw tay-tay paa-say oh KREE-bluh. Click below to hear this.*

Nearly 3,300 newspaper articles were examined.

I’m still on the subject of the climato-sceptiques (yesterday’s post). Here’s the link to the article from Le Monde that I am following. My point is not the arguments for or against a particular position. My point is all the lovely French expressions to be found in the article!

Every solid study has to explain where its data comes from, so this article begins with the 3,300 newspaper items. For those of you not familiar with the European way of writing large numbers, note that the American use of the comma is replaced with either a dot or a space. You still read the number the same way, of course: thousands first, then hundreds. Trois mille trois cent.

But the fun phrase is at the end of the sentence. It’s what the researchers did to these articles. Ils ont été passés au crible, They were passed through a crible. So what on earth is a crible?

It’s a device used to sort items by size: anything from pebbles and peas to peaches and peppers. It could be a simple handheld screen or a giant piece of machinery (try googling “crible” images and you’ll see!). And for reasons that I don’t know, one of the English words used to name this process of sorting through holes of progressive sizes is riddling.

So when I say that a book, let’s say, is criblé d’erreurs, I am saying that it is riddled with errors–like a sieve, it is full of holes.

And yet today’s phrase has nothing to do with holes, or sorting for size. It takes the literal meaning of the expression and extends it to a figurative sense: to examine closely. That, after all, is one of the ends that is accomplished by sorting your fruits, veggies, or industrial materials through a sieve. So these articles about climate change were gone over with a fine-toothed comb, which is yet another way of saying the same thing.

*Some mobile phones, such as Blackberries, won’t display the audio player. If no player appears, here’s an alternative link to the audio file:

passes_au_crible.mp3

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