Errors & Omissions: Needless extensions need preventive, not preventative, measures
John Rentoul is chief political commentator for The Independent on Sunday, and visiting professor at Queen Mary, University of London, where he teaches contemporary history. Previously he was chief leader writer for The Independent. He has written a biography of Tony Blair, whom he admired more at the end of his time in office than he did at the beginning.
Saturday 14 July 2012
Affecting/affectating: "There are limits to how long this game can be played," said a comment article about House of Lords reform on Tuesday: "all three parties affectating support for reform, but then no reform." Curbing the needless extension of words requires constant vigilance. Orientate, preventative and disassociate are already too prevalent. Let us kill affectate before this new knotweed takes root. It should have been "affecting".
Lie and belie: Our account on Thursday of the sad story of the death of Eva Rausing contained two common errors. The news report began: "Eva Rausing, the wife of an heir to the Tetra Pak fortune, may have lay dead for up to a week." It is possible that her body lay there for a week, but the insertion of "may have" requires the past participle, which is "lain".
The background article included this: "The grim arabesque of addiction and cure that followed Mrs Rausing in the final years of her life belied deeper issues and inter-dependency with her husband." I thought "arabesque" was a nice touch, but "belie" means "to show something to be false". I think the writer thought that it meant the same as "betray".
How soon is now? One of the first phrases that I put on my Banned List was "any time soon", and it is one of the most persistent. It cropped up in a report on Thursday of a review ordered by William Hague, the Foreign Secretary, of European Union laws and how they affect this country. We said: "Officials close to Mr Cameron insist the Prime Minister is not about to start a fight to reclaim powers from Brussels any time soon." It may be that "soon" on its own seems a bit flat, but "immediately" would have served.
Estranger things have happened: We reported on the possibility of Silvio Berlusconi returning as prime minister of Italy, also on Thursday, and noted that one obstacle to this was that he needed "the support of the populist Northern League party, with which he is currently estranged". The conventional usage is that one is estranged "from" someone or some group of people.
Screaming Americanisms: We reported yesterday that the buyer of one version of Edvard Munch's The Scream had been identified in the American press. We said that the picture was the only one of "four iterations of The Scream in private hands".
I found the word "iterations" confusing, and had to look it up to find that Munch had painted or drawn four versions of the picture, three of which are in a public gallery or museum. Leon Black, who paid $120m for the pastel picture in May, is "a New York financier who heads up the powerful investment firm, Apollo Global Management". In British English, though, he just heads it.
We also mentioned "Mr Black's resume", which needs its French accents in this country, but should be replaced, in any case, by CV. It is curious that there is no English word for a curriculum vitae, but in this country we are used to the Latin rather than the French.
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