We already know that EssaySnark is not GMATSnark, but regardless, today we’re going to take the opportunity to tease apart a tricky grammar situation that was prompted by the comments to our post last week responding to Columbia’s essay question about their location in New York City.
Phew. How was that for a doozy of a sentence?
In case you haven’t wandered into these parts in a few days, Columbia has an essay question that says:
This prompted an EssaySnark rant about whaddareyoutalkingaboutColumbiaisNOTintheheartofNewYork!!!
And yet, we have some Columbia
apologists – err, fanboys – err nice people among us, who are giving the adcom the benefit of the doubt. From the comments:
I think the adcom meant Manhattan is the ‘heart of the world’s business capital’, and Columbia is located in Manhattan; not that Columbia is located in the heart of Manhattan. But who knows, English is not my first language.
And we had someone else pipe up, saying that they agreed with that interpretation.
We like having nice people around, commenting on the blahg. We’re not trying to be mean to those nice people. But we have to correct the record: This interpretation is not legit for what Columbia’s essay question says.
We could point you to this Conde Nast travel site that has blurbs about great hotels located in Manhattan, and leave it at that (use your browser to find each occurrence of the word “heart” on that page and read the blurbs). There’s a bunch that all talk about being in “the heart of” New York – apparently that’s a very popular place to be – and every one of those hotels is located in Midtown or further south.
But the nice-person blahg-poster people were saying that they thought the English could be interpreted in another way, and that’s where we’ll focus our efforts today.
The term “the world’s business capital” is a description for “Manhattan”; those are analogous, equivalent substitutions. “The world’s business capital” can mean only NYC. (Well, some might claim that it’s London, but that’s a different argument.) The second sentence of the essay prompt underscores that the CBS adcom is saying that “Manhattan = New York City.”
In this usage, the word “heart” means “center” or “core”. If “the world’s business capital” means one specific place, then to further define it with “the heart of” means you’re being even more precise and pinpointing a specific part of the City of New York.
The only way that the entirety of NYC can be “the heart of the world’s business capital” would be if you’re defining “the world’s business capital” as the STATE of New York, which is a silly thing indeed. (Have you ever been to Poughkeepsie??).
To illustrate this, let’s redo the same sentence with different nouns:
If we try to use the (very generous) interpretation that our nice-person Brave Supplicant used for the adcom on this sentence, we’d have to say: “Jimmy is the ‘heart of the world’s fastest runner'” – and no, that doesn’t work. In this case, “Jimmy” is the fastest runner, who has a heart. The heart is not the entirety of Jimmy – unless some person who runs fast, who has a different name, has named his heart “Jimmy.” Which would be a little weird. We don’t know many people who’ve named their hearts. (Maybe some who’ve named another part of the anatomy, but…)
So, sorry folks. The meaning of this sentence is: “Manhattan is the world’s business capital. Manhattan has a heart. Columbia is located there.”
Now, if we were looking to be generous and cut Columbia some slack – not that we’re not trying to be generous – or trying to be not-generous – it’s not like we spend our days sleuthing around on the Columbia website and looking for errors and omissions that they may have made, to call a “Gotcha!” on them. They just make it so darn EASY…
But if a someone were to try and determine another way that Columbia may have intended this question, we could go with this as a possible interpretation. With the combination of the two sentences, Columbia could be saying – though we think this is a stretch – they could be saying that:
- the world’s business capital = New York City
- [not stated, but a known fact: New York City is comprised of five boroughs: Manhattan, The Bronx, Brooklyn, Queens, Staten Island]
- Manhattan = the “heart” of New York City
- [not stated, but understood: Manhattan is the borough of New York City that matters. Even though you’ve probably heard of those other boroughs, we’re 100% confident in our assumption that you are NOT planning on applying to bschool in any of them. Manhattan is the one that counts.]
- Columbia is in Manhattan
- ergo, “Columbia is in the heart of New York City”
is a true statement because it’s in Manhattanerr wait a minute.
That is not what they said. They said that Columbia is in the heart of Manhattan, and that is JUST NOT TRUE!!! aaargh!!
Deep breaths. Moment of meditation. Exhale. OK, we’re under control again.
But hey, did you know that part? About there being five boroughs within New York City? That when you say NYC, you technically are referring to all of them?
We didn’t think so – not most of you, at least. So you got a geography lesson today too, along with the grammar lesson! So that’s cool, you didn’t completely waste the last 5 minutes of your life reading this with no redeeming value to be had.
The only way that Columbia could have gotten off the hook with this question is if they’d said that “Columbia Business School is located in the heart of the world’s business capital – New York City. How do you anticipate that Manhattan will impact your experience at Columbia?” But they did not say that. They said it the other way, which admittedly sounds way better than this rewrite, anyway.
They could not have intended the meaning that we are trying to ascribe to them. Our attempts at being generous have failed. What a cold, heartless ‘Snark.
Poor us. That we care so much about such insignificant things. The adcom at Columbia Business School is probably feeling incredible pity for the ‘Snark right about now. That we get so riled up about something so completely unimportant. “Don’t they have a life?” they are asking each other. Or maybe they’re wishing they had our mailing address, so as to send us an admissions season’s supply of Prozac, and an invitation to chill the F out.
No worries, Columbia Business School. We have Brave Supplicants eager to write essays in response to those questions of yours. (Did we mention that we sorta like the questions this year? :-D) We will soon be so busy in reading those essays that we won’t have time to write such ridiculously irrelevant blahg posts. And then we’ll all be happy.