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).
- 1 Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
- 2 The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
- 3 Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
- 4 How the language you speak changes your view of the world
- 5 Tory activist asked to step down after Labour candidate Rupa Huq is 'manhandled' while questioning Boris Johnson on the campaign trail
General Election 2015: Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind as he casts a line to the disaffected of Grimsby
The man who filmed the Freddie Gray video has been arrested at gunpoint
Indonesia executions: Death row British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford will refuse to wear a blindfold when she faces firing squad
Oxygen-starved 'dead zones' with no marine life up to 100-miles long discovered in the Atlantic Ocean
Russian warships accused of 'chasing away' Swedish vessel to prevent Baltic States from achieving energy independence
Over 50,000 families shipped out of London boroughs in the past three years due to welfare cuts and soaring rents
EU asylum policy is 'a direct threat to our civilisation', says Nigel Farage
The Rothschild Libel: Why has it taken 200 years for an anti-Semitic slur that emerged from the Battle of Waterloo to be dismissed?
General Election 2015: SNP and its activists 'openly racist' towards the English, Farage says
General Election 2015: UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power, Labour warns
Schools forced to act as 'miniature welfare states' with teachers buying underwear and even haircuts for poor pupils
£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...
£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...
£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...
£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...