Lifting food

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It’s funny how silly little things can get stuck in your head and drive you crazy. This has been a busy month for emergency flight crews in the world — as it probably is most weeks.

On Sunday, a 24-year-old Australian woman was whisked to hospital by a rescue helicopter following a parachuting accident. The woman was reported to be in stable condition.

Meanwhile, on Monday, a transport aircraft took off from Belgium for the Central African Republic carrying about 100 tonnes of relief supplies. Up to 650,000 people are displaced throughout the country due to an ongoing conflict.

Last week, in Los Angeles, another helicopter came to the rescue of a horse and rider who had fallen off the edge of the Santa Clara Truck Trail. The woman suffered only minor injuries but the horse was in rough shape. It was tranquilized and taken for further treatment.

And on Wednesday, the Newfoundland and Labrador government announced that a program established 17 years ago to subsidize the expense of flying in food to icebound Labrador coastal communities would be kicking in again this year.

All very different circumstances, and all very laudable efforts. From rescue missions to humanitarian aid to mitigating sticker shock, it’s all good government at work.

So, what’s the problem?

Well, in the first three instances, the procedure is called an “airlift.” But here, the program is called the Air Foodlift Subsidy. It’s been called that since 1997, when then government ministers Ernest McLean and Julie Bettney inaugurated it.

Curiously, no one seems to have found the term … well, curious.

A casual poll of The Telegram newsroom elicited little more than smiles, grunts and an occasional “Can’t you see I’m busy?” look. A meek query to a government spokesperson went unanswered.

But think about it. What is a foodlift?

The closest thing you can find in an online search are those miniature elevators to take food from the kitchen on one floor to the dining room on another. In less respectful days, they were called dumb waiters.

The term may seem innocent, but try extrapolating it into a sentence. “Air was foodlifted to the icebound community of L’Anse au Loup today.” Doesn’t make sense.

And yet government news releases have been full of terms like “AFS policy” and “AFS program.”

“This foodlift subsidy will benefit all residents of the north and south coasts of Labrador,” Minister McLean said in the original 1997 statement. He did it! He used “foodlift” in a sentence and apparently didn’t bat an eye.

This probably seems petty. Perhaps it is. But words mean something. And when words like food, air and lift get transposed into a ridiculous Spoonerism and nobody notices it for 17 years, it has to make you wonder: what else is flying under the radar?

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Belgium, Central African Republic Los Angeles

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