Errors & Omissions: As everyone knows, it's so easy to make a royal gaffe

In last Saturday's restaurant review, John Walsh was inspired to an ecstatic gastro-lyricism by the high-class English fare at Rules in Covent Garden.

He lunched on Cornish fish soup ("earthily satisfying and creamily rich"), roast partridge ("a tiny bird with legs as long as Cyd Charisse's"), and apple, sultana and cinnamon crumble ("a plate of milky-nutty fruitiosity"). After all that, he may have been suffering from some slight, and entirely understandable, post-prandial befuddlement when he wrote that at Rules "as everyone knows, George VII, when still Prince of Wales, used to heave his royal tumtum up a secret staircase and romance Lillie Langtry".

It is always dangerous to write that "everyone knows" anything; things that "everyone knows" usually turn out to be wrong. In this case, what everyone actually knows is that the royal lover was the future Edward VII. We haven't had George VII yet, though it has been rumoured that we will, when the present Prince of Wales succeeds to the throne. It is said that he may prefer that style to Charles III – and if you compare previous Georges with previous Charleses you can hardly blame him.

Threat and doubt: "Fear and fury after Greek PM threatens rescue deal" – headline, Wednesday. The verb "threaten" is versatile; it can be applied either to a direct or an indirect object. I can threaten ruin to you, or I can threaten you with ruin. But in the stripped-down language of headlines "threaten" becomes not just versatile but ambiguous.

So, for whom is the Greek PM threatening a rescue deal? Oh no, that doesn't make sense; his threat is directed against the rescue deal. Those who wish to avoid putting the reader through that kind of double-take may like to avoid "threaten" in headlines. In this case, "... puts rescue deal in peril" would have done the job.

Who, what, when, where, why? A classic case of leaving an unanswered question bouncing around in the reader's mind was this picture caption, from a news page on Thursday: "Steeplejacks climb to the top of Chichester Cathedral's 277ft spire to reinstate its weathervane, which includes a 3ft cockerel gilded in ethically sourced gold leaf."

What on earth is ethically sourced gold leaf? Is the gold perhaps mined by miners "who share our values", to borrow the cloudy reassurance that Waitrose offers its customers about the farmers who rear its chickens? Perhaps we should ask what unethically sourced gold might be. Presumably it is the fruit of armed robberies at bullion warehouses. In reality, I suppose ethically sourced gold comes from mines that don't employ slave labour, poison their workers or the environment. But we should be told, if the ethics of the gold are to be mentioned at all.

I'll have some of that: "A man who had his car smashed up by six Metropolitan Police officers said they should be 'completely removed from the police force' after they were found guilty of discreditable conduct." So said a news story published on Thursday.

That sounds exciting. How can I have my car smashed up by Metropolitan Police officers? You can "have" something done on purpose, or you can "have" it happen by accident. You can have your house done up by a builder or have your leg broken by a fall. But you need to be clear which it is. Beware of the grey area in between, where unintended comedy lurks.

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
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: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Recruitment Genius: General Factory Operatives

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch
Dame Harriet Walter: The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment

Dame Harriet Walter interview

The actress on learning what it is to age, plastic surgery, and her unease at being honoured by the establishment
Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Art should not be a slave to the ideas driving it

Critics of Tom Stoppard's new play seem to agree that cerebral can never trump character, says DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's winter salads will make you feel energised through February

Bill Granger's winter salads

Salads aren't just a bit on the side, says our chef - their crunch, colour and natural goodness are perfect for a midwinter pick-me-up
England vs Wales: Cool head George Ford ready to put out dragon fire

George Ford: Cool head ready to put out dragon fire

No 10’s calmness under pressure will be key for England in Cardiff
Michael Calvin: Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Time for Old Firm to put aside bigotry and forge new links