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Here is a GRE practice question that I have an issue with. It is given here, Question #7.

Passage:

French cuisine is highly regarded all over the world. Yet in Paris there are more American restaurants selling burgers and fries (which many people now class as ‘junk food’) than there are in any other European capital city. Obviously the French are very fond of ‘junk food’, and are not too proud to eat it.

Question:
Which of the following, if true, would most weaken the author’s contention?

A. There are also a larger number of Lebanese restaurants in Paris than there are in other European capital cities

B. French Cordon Bleu cuisine is very expensive

C. The number of French tourists eating in New York burger restaurants is very low

D. Junk food is actually has high nutritional value when eaten in moderation

E. There are an unusually large number of American tourists in Paris who eat at burger joints.

E is the correct answer given.

However, I think C should be correct, because the author is implying that French are fond of junk food. Option C would violate author's point of view.

Further, option E says that a large number of American tourists eat in burger joints, which doesn't imply that French people don't eat there.

closed as off-topic by ghoppe, Tushar Raj, Marv Mills, FumbleFingers, Chenmunka Jul 11 '15 at 19:34

  • This question does not appear to be about English language and usage within the scope defined in the help center.
If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

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    Looks like a homework/ exam Q. – Kris Jun 24 '15 at 13:39
  • GRE practise question – Manish Jun 24 '15 at 13:40
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    @Kris, Manish did at least offer not only the correct answer per the GRE board, but also his own preference, and a rationale for it. – Dan Bron Jun 24 '15 at 13:41
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    The author contends that "Obviously the French are very fond of ‘junk food’ ". "[I]n Paris there are more American restaurants selling burgers and fries (which many people now class as ‘junk food’) than there are in any other European capital city." implies fairly strongly that more people eat junk food in Paris than in any other European capital city. But are they all French? The fact that proportionately, an unusually large number of American tourists eat at burger joints in Paris means that the data are almost certainly skewed. Different surveys are needed. – Edwin Ashworth Jun 24 '15 at 13:48
  • Another interpretation as to why there are so many fast-food restaurants (not only because the French love "junk food") is that American chain restaurants are responding to demand. There are indeed many American and British tourists, and parades of European kids on school trips in Paris who are used to eating hamburgers; subs (large sandwiches); fried chicken; mass-produced and processed pizzas (shudders); tourists expect or demand to have cheaper food options than going to restaurants twice a day. So, there's nothing obvious about the French loving "junk food". – Mari-Lou A Jun 25 '15 at 5:06
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Since I guessed E when I read this question, and since the GRE is all about guessing which answer the test deviser has decided is the right one, perhaps my analysis in settling on answer E will be of some value to you.

First, we need to nail down precisely what the author's contention and evidence are. The author's core contention is that the French are very fond of junk food, and the author's evidence for this contention is that Paris has more burger & fries restaurants than any other European capital city.

There are a number of ways to challenge the logical connection between the presence in Paris of many burger & fries joints and the supposed love of the French for junk food. One might be that burger & fries joints exist only in Paris and not in the rest of France, which would tend to indicate that, at most, Parisians love junk food but the rest of the French does not. But none of the options offer counterevidence of this type. Let's look at the types of counterevidence that are offered.

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A. There are also a larger number of Lebanese restaurants in Paris than there are in other European capital cities

One possibility is that Paris has more restaurants of every kind than any other European capital. In that case, the large number of burger & fries joints becomes less compelling as proof that the French have a special fondness for junk food, and instead invites another conclusion, such as that Parisians hate cooking for themselves and never eat at home. This form of counterevidence lurks in the factoid in option A that there are also more Lebanese restaurants in Paris than in any other European capital. However, an especially large number of Lebanese restaurants isn't tremendously significant in itself; the anti-author would have a much stronger counterargument if, for example, Paris had more Chinese, Japanese, Thai, Indian, Mexican, Brazilian, North African, Central African, etc., restaurants than any other European capital, too. Option A provides evidence against the author's contention, but it's not strong evidence.

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B. French Cordon Bleu cuisine is very expensive

The fact that U.S.-style fast food is cheaper than expensive French food (option B) might provide the basis for a plausible explanation of why there are a large number of burger & fries joints in Paris. The counterargument here would be that Parisians don't really like burgers and fries; they're just too poor to visit Cordon Bleu restaurants every night. But for this argument to hold much weight, you'd have to assert (and demonstrate) either that burger & fries joints are the only realistic low-cost alternative to Cordon Bleu restaurants for consumers, or that (as in option A) Paris has a huge number of cheap restaurants of all types—pho shops, falafel stands, noodle shops, taco trucks, etc.—and that burger & fries joints are numerous only in the same sense that these other low-cost places are. But option B fails to make either assertion.

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C. The number of French tourists eating in New York burger restaurants is very low

Another type of counterevidence would be to see what the eating habits of French tourists are in the United States—the home of junk food. Presumably if French people in the U.S. don't eat at McDonalds very often, it follows that they don't love McDonalds in Paris either. But this is an indirect form of evidence at best. In the first place, French tourists don't represent the general population of Paris. For one thing, they are probably more affluent on average than members of the home population; and for another, they may be less inclined to buy fast food during a vacation than they might be at the end of a long workday—indeed, they may be much more careful than usual about not wasting their limited number of meal opportunities in the U.S. eating junk food that they can get at home. The argument that option C provides some counterevidence to the author's contention is undoubtedly true, but I don't see it as being any more damaging to the author's contention than option A is.

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D. Junk food is actually has high nutritional value when eaten in moderation

Option D contradicts the assertion that French people love junk food only if we accept the further argument that French people frequent hamburger & fries joints not because they love the food but because the food is so nutritious. This is a silly argument.

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E. There are an unusually large number of American tourists in Paris who eat at burger joints.

The final argument offered is that all those burger & fries joints in Paris are there primarily to serve not the citizens of Paris but the tourists from Omaha (Nebraska, not Beach). In effect, the argument here is that Parisians don't love fast food; they just sell it to U.S. tourists. The stipulated fact that an unusually large number of U.S. tourists in Paris eat at U.S.-style burger & fries joints there provides a direct explanation for why there might be so many such joints in Paris. And because the number of U.S.-style fast-food restaurants in Paris is the central piece of evidence backing the author's contention that French people love junk food, counterevidence that those restaurants serve a large number of non-Parisians directly weakens the author's argument—and does so more forcefully than any of the other options do.


Conclusion

The above analysis leads me to the conclusion that option E "if true, would most weaken the author’s contention"—which is the issue to be decided here. In fact, I would arrange the options in order from "most weaken" to "least weaken" as follows: E, A, C, B, D. But characterizing this practice question as a measure of "Reading Comprehension" is somewhat misleading. It has virtually nothing to do with understanding the meaning of the block paragraph that opens the question; instead, it is almost entirely devoted to analyzing the relevance of five statements offered as logical counterweights to the factual detail that the author of the block paragraph presents as evidence for his (or her) core contention. The connection of this exercise to English language and usage is, I think, extremely tenuous.

  • I agree with this answer in its entirety. I would only add that there is another weakness in C: we don't know from the text whether there are many French tourists in NY (and even if we know from "real life", we shouldn't bring this knowledge to bear in a comprehension exercise). Few French accents in NY burger bars may tell us more about the state of NY tourism than about French tastes. – Silverfish Jul 9 '15 at 19:48
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C. is not really about the point the author is discussing

the French are very fond of ‘junk food’

does not imply where French tourists eat in NY since it is a situation of eating during lunch break not during holidays.

Moreover the author says that

[they] are not too proud to eat it.

So, it is going in the same author's way. They are not proud of it so they won't do it.


A., B. and D. are off topic.


E. states that there are a lot of American tourists in burger joints while the purpose of the author is to show that those who eat in burger joints are French.

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    Also, wrt answer C, French tourists in NY are a far less representative sample of French people than the population of Paris. And low compared to what? The number of natives eating at them? – Avon Jun 24 '15 at 14:38
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    @Mari-LouA Edited and corrected. Thank you and sorry for all those errors – Yohann V. Jun 25 '15 at 6:26
  • Can the one who downvoted me explain why he did it so I can improve my answer? – Yohann V. Jun 25 '15 at 6:33
  • Glad to be of help. Did the DV came after the edit? Possibly your last phrase is slightly off track. I believe the purpose of the author is to show that the French also like/appreciate fast food. The French have a reputation for being snobby about their food in general. But that's my opinion, I personally, wouldn't DV an answer because of that last phrase. Sometimes there is no way of knowing. – Mari-Lou A Jun 25 '15 at 10:34
  • @Mari-LouA My last and only edit was about my grammar mistakes. I tried to give the reason behind the "correct answer given" from OP words. If nobody explain me why my answer has been downvoted, I can't correct it, so it will stay like that. – Yohann V. Jun 25 '15 at 12:02
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The answer of E is correct because it contradicts the original argument, and C isn't a good answer because it is too specific. It says that there are few French tourists eating in NY burger joints. This would be a better answer if it said: French tourists eating junk food, but it does not. The OP is treating this question as if the NY burger joints are representative of all junk food, but they are not, and as such it would have little impact against the original argument.

For an analogy: if you said that many people fly with commercial airlines for long-distance travel, this would probably hold true, and if someone said: but upper-class people fly with private jets, your argument wouldn't lose credibility because the upper-class people that own private jets are only a small portion of the entire population that flies, so the minority group wouldn't fall under the 'many' statement made earlier, but the remainder would (take an entirety and remove a minority; you still have many left).

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