We all make mistakes - I'm delighted to say - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

We all make mistakes - I'm delighted to say

`There is almost always a misprint in every menu. But am I cast down? Am I heck!'

NOT LONG ago in this space, or, rather, in the space over on page 2 where I used to be till Monday, I mentioned a lecture once given by Jonathan Miller called "Why Do Women Tell Jokes Badly?".

And about a week later I got a call from the BBC. It was from a researcher. She was working for a TV chat show. She said she had read my reference to Jonathan Miller's lecture.

"I wondered if you happened to have Mr Miller's phone number," she said. "We're doing a programme on whether women are funny, and he sounds ideal for the show."

"I don't think so," I said. "I'm not a friend of his. You don't actually have to know a person to mention the title of one of his lectures. Have you tried looking him up in Who's Who?"

She laughed. I didn't know why. It was a serious suggestion.

"Well, do you know where he works?" she asked.

It began to dawn on me that she was not totally au fait with Jonathan Miller's lifestyle. I asked her whether she knew who he was. She said she didn't.

"You don't know about him being one of the founder members of Beyond the Fringe? And an expert on the brain? And a director of many films? And a famous producer of opera?"

No, she had no idea. She was young. It was all history to her. She just wanted his phone number.

"Well," I said, "he has often worked for the BBC. He should be on the BBC's list of phone numbers. Assuming John Birt hasn't sold it off, along with all the other archive stuff."

She laughed.

"Too right," she said. "I'll have a look. Thanks."

It is customary after an experience like that to express shock and sadness. How low has the BBC sunk, that a researcher has never heard of Jonathan Miller? Or that the senior producer who asked her to get his phone number didn't seem to know anything about him either? I am amazed, shocked, dismayed, etc.

But, of course, I am not really dismayed at all. I am in fact delighted. I say that I am dismayed to hide the unedifying sight of my crowing in my superiority and my delight in putting someone else right. I am delighted in the way that we are always delighted by the mistakes and ignorance of others. Whenever people write to me to point out my mistakes, and say, "I am disappointed to see that you are unaware of the true meaning" (or spelling or origin or authorship, etc) they are lying. They are not disappointed. They are overjoyed at the thought of scoring a point off me.

And I do the same. Someone once said to me that if you look hard enough, you can find a misspelling in any menu, and I now waste endless time proof- reading the menu in any restaurant, and blow me down, they're right. There is almost always a misprint in every menu. But am I cast down ? Am I heck! All of us have a streak of pedantry somewhere which emerges in the form of joyful disapproval of error. Apart from menu-chasing, one of my favourite blood sports is hunting for misprints in the Radio Times. The other day they had a Radio 3 tribute to the jazz trumpeter Alex Walsh. Not only was it listed in the Radio Times, but his name was trailed on Radio 3 several times. Unfortunately, there was no such person. The tribute was to Alex Welsh. A small slip, but it gave me a lot of pleasure.

Mark you, every time I criticise the Radio Times in print I get a letter from a reader saying: "The Radio Times may be guilty, but I am sad to say..." (meaning, I am delighted to say... "...I am sad to say that The Independent is also guilty of misprints." And indeed it is not guilt-free. There was a cracking example the other day. This paper had been running a short series of translated poems from Goethe, and one was meant to have the title of "Ginkgo Biloba". The Ginkgo biloba is an ancient Chinese tree also known as the maidenhair tree, but the sub-editor working on the title was not a tree fan. He seems to have looked at "Biloba" and thought it was a misspelling and changed it, and so it was that in my edition of The Independent the poem was called "Ginkgo Bilbao".

I would like to say how sorry I am to see errors like that creeping into the paper.

But, of course, I can't.

I was absolutely delighted.

Suggested Topics
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke's video for 'Blurred Lines' has been criticised for condoning rape

Robin Thicke admits he didn't write 'Blurred Lines'

music
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Damon as Jason Bourne in The Bourne Ultimatum (2007)

film
Arts and Entertainment
Sheridan Smith as Cilla Black

Review: Cilla, ITV TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Keira Knightley and Benedict Cumberbatch star in the Alan Turing biopic The Imitation Game

film
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West is on his 'Yeezus' tour at the moment

Music
Arts and Entertainment
Rob James-Collier, who plays under-butler Thomas Barrow, admitted to suffering sleepless nights over the Series 5 script

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence star in new film 'Serena'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week