Words fail them

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Indy Lifestyle Online
Lock off. No, this is not a term of abuse, it's the phrase used to describe the safety measure of tightening the screws on a lantern after adjusting its angle during focusing. At least that's what Martin Harrison says in his forthcoming The Language of Theatre.

Proud possessors of this volume will learn that when somebody in the business airily mentions a "star trap", they are not discussing the Almeida. In fact, it's a specialist trap-door through which characters appear or disappear, usually on a counterweight system, for magical effect in panto and suchlike. Similarly, when an actor talks to you about "fourth wall", "papering the house" or "a french flat" he is not referring to, respectively, DIY, a spot of decorating or an intimate relationship with Terence Conran and all his works.

Excellent though Mr Harrison's intentions may be, I think he should have a word with his publisher's publicity department. "This reader-friendly reference book is perfect for both dipping into or sustained reading," announces the press release. So far so good. "Compiled by Martin Harrison, he has ensured that the diverse world of the theatre is comprehensively annotated." Sorry to nitpick, but the opening grammatical slip-up which confuses the subject of the sentence (via what I believe is charmingly called a dangling participle) doesn't inspire confidence, but things get worse. "Words that have more than one meaning are cited with interesting detail." (As opposed to boring detail, I suppose.) "Here the often confusing and elitist-seeming jargon is transformed into accessible terminology that academics and the general reader can appreciate." All very laudable, say I.

Which leads us to the release's final coup de grace: "He manages to retain the fascination of the world of the theatre yet effectively removes any imposed hauteur that may discourage readers from its appeal." Glad we got that sorted. Aren't you?