Errors & Omissions: An odyssey won't take you to the Holy Grail

Legends cluster around the name of Katherine Grainger, it seems. Last Saturday we reported on the British rower: "Ever since she secured her first silver in the double sculls at the Sydney Games in 2000, the 36-year-old rower has been painfully honest about her quest for what she called the Holy Grail – Olympic gold. That odyssey came to a euphoric close yesterday on Dorney Lake when she and her partner Anna Watkins powered to first place in the double sculls."

Well, is this a quest for the Holy Grail, or is it an odyssey ? It can hardly be both.

Both the Odyssey and the medieval Grail legends are stories of long and perilous journeys, but there the similarity ends. Galahad and the other Grail knights are wandering into far countries in search of a precious object that will win them salvation. Odysseus, in his more down-to-earth Greek way, is simply trying to find the way home. The Grail quest, then, is an apt metaphor for an athlete's quest for Olympic gold, but the Odyssey is not.

Medal tally The Olympics seem to have given us a new verb: to medal, meaning to win a medal. Last Saturday's London 2012 supplement told us that "Greg Rutherford and Chris Tomlinson will hope to medal".

Pedants will be shocked. However, the use of a noun as an intransitive verb is not unprecedented. If a tree can blossom, I don't see why an athlete shouldn't medal. It isn't ambiguous or an offence against logic. There is only one real problem that I can see. So far "medal" and "meddle" have been a noun and verb respectively, and no one confuses their spellings. If the use of "medal" as a verb becomes established, I can see this unhappy pair joining "pedal" and "peddle" at the top of the Crazy English Spelling Homophone Horrors List.

And another thing Hugh Minor has written in from Cardiff to draw attention to a grammatical issue I was not aware of. On reflection, I think he is right.

He saw this, in a news story, published last Saturday, about a break-in by protesters at a nuclear facility: "'We're taking this very, very seriously,' he said, confirming that the trio had cut through two chain-link fences."

Mr Minor points out that the present participle "confirming" is used here in a way that usually implies either two simultaneous actions ("He left the pub, singing lustily") or one action consequent upon another ("He accidentally hit the alarm button, setting off a panic"). He goes on: "In this case, confirmation of the trio's actions was not a consequence of saying 'We're taking this very, very seriously', and it is difficult to see how it could have been uttered simultaneously. To put it simply, he said one thing and confirmed something else."

Why, oh why? It is a great temptation to start a headline with "Why", "How" or "When". It imparts the seductive air of a mystery slowly unfolding. We all do it, but let's not overdo it, particularly when the story reveals that there really is not much of a mystery at all.

Tuesday's paper gave us two "Why" headlines: "Why sailing is not a spectator sport" (because it happens a long way from the shore and the rules are weird); and "Why Mensch's move has gifted Labour a by-election win" (because the seat will probably revert to Labour).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
Arts and Entertainment
Kanye West, performing in New York last week, has been the subject of controversy as rock's traditional headline slot at Glastonbury is lost once again
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Ridiculous Six has been produced by Adam Sandler, who also stars in it
filmNew controversy after nine Native American actors walked off set
Life and Style
Google celebrates Bartolomeo Cristofori's 360th birthday
techGoogle Doodle to the rescue
Life and Style
Drinking - often heavily - is a running theme throughout HBO's Game of Thrones adaptation
food + drink
News
people
  • 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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living