Neighbours

There was something a bit silly in an Economist article this week:

“Otto von Habsburg, once heir to the throne of the Austro-Hungarian empire, died this week at the age of 98, days after Hungary handed the rotating European Union presidency to its neighbour, Poland.”

Slovaks will be less than impressed with this, since Slovakia, once part of the Hungarian Empire, is inbetween Poland and Hungary.
But wait, in the comments section, here comes the author of the article to attempt to justify his word choice:

bpwriter wrote: Jul 8th 2011 1:05 GMT .I am the author of this article – thanks for the lively comments and I hope the debate continues. One small point: the New Oxford American Dictionary defines the word “neighbour” as follows:

neighbor |ˈnābər| ( Brit. neighbour)
noun
– a person living near or next door to the speaker or person referred to : our garden was the envy of the neighbors.
– a person or place in relation to others near or next to it : I chatted with my neighbor on the flight to New York | matching our investment levels with those of our North American neighbors.

– ie, in this context neighbouring countries do not necessarily have to share a border. Slovakia can rest assured, the Economist is well aware of its existence.

Justifying your use of the word by reference to a dictionary? Come on. In the context of my street, of course “neighbours” doesn’t just mean the people who live at numbers 17 and 21 (We’re at no. 19) but in the context of central European geography, calling Poland and Hungary “neighbours” is dumb provocation.

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