The top ten: Footnotes
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at King's College, London, and at Queen Mary University of London. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Sunday 25 May 2014
Thanks to Calum (again) for suggesting this list, after I had commented on the wonder of the footnotes in John Campbell's biography of Roy Jenkins, a fabulous old-fashioned book, with footnotes at the bottom of the page, plus endnotes, including endnotes in the footnotes.
1. ‘It [is] wearisome to add “except the Italians” to every generalisation. Henceforth it may be assumed.’ AJP Taylor, The Struggle for Mastery in Europe, 1848-1918. Nominated by Ian Moss
2. ‘Strengthened, I should have thought spoiled, by whisky’ Roy Jenkins, in Gladstone, on Queen Victoria’s preference for claret.
3. ‘Trees didn’t burst into flame… A better simile would be “not like molten gold”’ A footnote to: “Sunlight poured like molten gold across the… landscape.” Terry Pratchett, The Light Fantastic. Tom Joyce
4. ‘…his trousers were creased at the sides not front and back’ AJP Taylor on King George V, in English History 1914-45. Ian Moss again
5. ‘Despite Orwell’s expressed wishes, the… Uniform Edition includes three semi-colons’ A footnote to: “Coming Up for Air hasn’t got a semi-colon in it.” Peter Davison, editor, George Orwell: A Life in Letters
6. ‘“You’re fired’ were the exact words as I remember them’ A footnote to: “My first job ended when the editor said something to me that made it impossible to go on working for him.” Christopher Hitchens, Hitch-22. Andrew Mueller
7. ‘This is the only reference in the canon to Holmes’s eyebrows’ Leslie S Klinger, editor, The New Annotated Sherlock Holmes
8. ‘It is one of the mysteries of existence that what is called red tape is in fact pink’ Profs George Gretton and Kenneth Reid, on a quirk of title deeds, in Conveyancing (2nd Edition). Love and Garbage
9. ‘Haemophilia is, like the enlargement of the prostate, an exclusively male disorder. But not in this work’ Samuel Beckett, Watt. Roger White
10. ‘They discovered a problem... with the [website]: investorsexchange. com’ A footnote to: “The Investors Exchange, which wound up being shortened to IE X.” Michael Lewis, Flash Boys. Clive Davis
Next week: Plurals that have become singular (such as pox).
Coming soon: Best rhymes in songs. Send your suggestions, and ideas for future Top 10s, to firstname.lastname@example.org
Game of Thrones
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