Thursday, June 01, 2006

Are you left out or excluded?

A recent poster from the Government of Canada 2006 Census was asking passers-by whether "They had been left out? " and encouraged them to contact a special number to help them fill out the census questionnaire.

What was troubling was the French side of the poster, which asked "Have you been excluded" (Étiez-vous exclus?). Any native English speaker will confirm that to be left out usually implies a mistake or an oversight. Although the dictionary states that leave out and exclude are synonymous, native speakers will make a difference and use each expression in different circumstances.

I quickly called Elections Canada and spoke with a very understanding new Canadian clerk who took down the details of my complaint and promised to forward it to the proper authorities.

I just hope that those French-speaking citizens who read the sign did not feel Excluded, just Left out.

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