Errors & Omissions: A headline that should come with a health warning

 

Out of his mind: We noted a tension in American ideas about money in a leading article on Monday.

"The latest victim of this schizophrenic attitude is the Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney," we said, after he was rounded on – in a country that celebrates wealth – for offering a $10,000 bet to a rival in a debate. We should be more careful in using words from mental health. Schizophrenia does not mean a "split personality". Schizo- comes from the Greek for split, but it refers to the separation between the mind and reality, not that between multiple personalities. Even if it were the right word to use, however, it would be in dubious taste.

Who is full of what? I hope to turn the tide against the misuse of "hopefully", although I admit that it does not usually matter much. This, by Mark Steel on Wednesday, though, tripped me up: "So, just like in 1940, we stand alone, and hopefully at every bus stop, you'll hear the plucky British saying: 'Blooming Krauts, who do they think they are telling us our bankers aren't allowed to rob us blind?'" For a moment, I thought he meant that the British would stand hopefully at bus stops, possibly waiting for a No 27. The placing of the commas does not help, but he means "I hope that". Perhaps it is a commendable reluctance to use the first person pronoun that prompts writers to use hopefully, but it is taking self-effacement too far.

Piano and forte: In our preview of Radiohead's new single, which is an attack on the Daily Mail, we described it as "a piano ballad which builds to a crescendo". A crescendo, as any junior thunker of the plinky-plonk knows, is a musical passage that becomes louder. It is not the bit to which the crescendo builds, which is usually called the climax. I suppose misplaced prudery might explain the frequency of this error.

Off the spiral track: Daniel Howden's brilliant report on Thursday from the conflict in Somalia was let down by two clanging clichés. One was in the headline, "UN-backed invasion of Somalia spirals into chaos". It is not the chaos so much – at least we were not describing lane restrictions on the A38 – it is the spiralling. An invasion going into a spiral? If it were the first time someone had used that metaphor, the failure of the image might be forgiven. Howden was presumably not responsible for the headline, but conjured another implausible picture in his report, which said: "Kenya's first foreign war ... is coming off the rails." I am told that there was a railway in Somalia, built by the Italians in the 1910s. But it was dismantled, by the British, in the 1940s.

In effect: As we approach the end of the year, I will invert this column's purpose to praise John Lichfield, whose report of the conviction of Jacques Chirac was a model of accurate and original writing. Take this early sentence: "Despite 14 years of delays and rearguard actions and despite the best efforts of his former protégé, President Nicolas Sarkozy, Chirac, 79, was convicted by a Paris court of, in effect, embezzling taxpayers' money to fund his rise to the presidency between 1990 and 1995." Long, but clear, and dodging all the familiar traps into which lesser reporters fall. "Protégé" correctly spelt and accented. "In effect" rather than "effectively", which means something different. And no ghastly "from 1990-95". A thing of beauty and a joy for ever.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Recruitment Genius: Gas Installation Support Engineer

£20000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Gas Installation Support Engi...

Day In a Page

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence