Errors & Omissions: Call them what you like, but you can't change the nature of nuclear weapons

When did you last read about the danger that Iran or North Korea will acquire a nuclear deterrent, or about worries that Israel might one day use its undeclared nuclear deterrent? No, you never have.

Just as in Evelyn Waugh's Scoop, the enigmatic Mr Baldwin declared that where other countries use "force", we Britons alone employ "might", so it is today that where lesser breeds have nuclear "weapons", we Britons alone enjoy the ethical superiority that comes with possession of a "deterrent".

So it was on Monday's front page, where an opinion piece was puffed with the words "We need to think laterally about our nuclear deterrent". Of course, the word "deterrent" is not strictly wrong; nobody imagines that this country intends to use its nuclear weapons aggressively. But shouldn't we just cut out the cant and call a weapon a weapon? The endless repetition of the word "deterrent" creates a weird impression that our nuclear weapons are somehow less nasty than other people's.

Journalese: Thursday's arts page carried an interview with the novelist J P Donleavy. The first paragraph mentioned his "trademark elegantly tailored three-piece suits". Only two paragraphs farther down came this: "His trademark beard now completely white, and his eyes shaded by brown-tinted spectacles ..."

("Warning: This beard (hereinunder known as 'the beard') and all parts thereof, whether white or grizzled or of whatsoever colour, including the moustache and side-whisker areas, constitute a registered trademark under relevant legislation. Any infringement of the owner's intellectual property rights will ...")

We should be grateful that Donleavy has not been wearing glasses all his life, or they would no doubt be a trademark as well.

I think I'll have the bomb: A news story on Monday, about Mr Cameron's Pakistan terrorism gaffe, remarked: "Despite the British and Afghan troops enjoying an element of surprise, the insurgents have been able to lay down belts of IEDs, their weapon of choice, which have taken a lethal toll in the campaign." The modish jargon phrase "of choice" has become seriously annoying. And in this case it is untrue. If the Taliban could get hold of heavy artillery, that is what they would use. They use improvised explosive devices because they have nothing deadlier. It is not a matter of choice.

Cliché of the week: A report on Thursday about wartime UFO sightings informed us that: "A senior British military aide claimed to have witnessed the cigar-chomping Prime Minister discuss the incident with General Dwight Eisenhower."

"Chomp", according to the Oxford dictionary, is a variation ("US and dial.") of "champ", which dates back to the 16th century and means to chew with a violent and noisy action of the jaws. These days both these verbs are pretty well fossilised. "Champ" is found only in the phrase "champ at the bit", which is apparently what horses do when eager for action. I wouldn't know, and neither would most of the people who employ this desperately hackneyed image. As for "chomp", nobody seems to chomp anything much except cigars. And can you imagine Churchill biting violently on his cigar in the manner of some Hollywood hoodlum?

Inconvenient fact: "Hundreds turn out for Raoul Moat service," declared a headline on Tuesday. It was immediately belied by the opening sentence of the story: "More than 150 people attended the funeral of Raoul Moat yesterday." It is the job of a headline to make the story sound as interesting as possible, but I'm afraid "hundreds" needs to be at least 200. One and a half hundreds won't do.

Capital crime: Some people have little patience with the Bridesheadesque arcana of Oxford and Cambridge usage, but we still ought to get them right. A news story on Wednesday referred to "the sandstone quads of Oxford's Christ Church College".

That should have been "Christ Church college". Christ Church is a college, but the word "college" is not part of its name.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • 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: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

Day In a Page

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
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions