Errors & Omissions: Too many of these lazy expressions just leave us cold
Saturday 31 July 2010
I'm not sure that Anna Wintour, the editor of American Vogue, needs anybody to feel sorry for her, but she is a victim of sorts. I refer to a headline that appeared above a story on page 3 of last Saturday's paper, "Wintour goes nuclear about restaurant on her doorstep".
Whoever came up with the nickname "Nuclear Wintour" for a woman whose froideur is legendary should still be congratulating themselves. The coinage definitely counts as one of journalism's wittiest moments. But it dates back a long way now, and the use of the word "nuclear" in relation to stories about Anna Wintour has come to be fairly tiresome – for her, I imagine, and also for newspaper readers. And just how strongly did Ms Wintour feel anyway about the prospect of a lively-sounding joint opening near her secluded Manhattan home? "I am completely concerned," was the quote we carried – an odd formulation but one that I'd say stops some way short of "going nuclear".
Ah well, at least we didn't say "Now is the Wintour of her discontent".
Stumbling bloc: I was struck by what we wrote about the proposed athletes' village for the London Olympics in a feature last Saturday on preparations for the Games: "From a distance, it may resemble a dour Soviet-era housing scheme, but a state-of-the-art facility is promised ..." Why is it, I wonder, that all housing schemes deemed "dour" are so often accorded the additional description "Soviet-era"? Did the Soviet Union have a monopoly on dour housing schemes? It's become a cliché, though perhaps not quite as much of a cliché as "state of the art".
East is east: My old tutor at university used to refer to it disparagingly as "journalistic variation" – the contrivance whereby, in the laudable aim of avoiding repetition, new ways are constantly sought – and then awkwardly found – to refer to the same thing. I thought of my tutor when I read the headline last Monday, "Cameron hoping to forge new special relationship with eastern powerhouse". Now which particular "eastern powerhouse" might that be? Ah yes, India. But the headline appeared directly under a strap reading "PM's India visit", so the need was felt to avoid saying "India" in the headline. Tricky. "Eastern powerhouse" is not wrong, but it is a bit glib.
So long, Solaris: This was how we began our story on Wednesday about the 13 novels in contention for the Booker Prize: "Some might consider it curmudgeonly to reflect on the novels left off the Man Booker Prize long list ... rather than commend the 13 authors who made the final cut. But others – arguably much of the literary world – will find it impossible not to mention the glaring omission of Ian McEwan's novel Solaris, considered by many in the industry to be the publishing event of the year." Some might consider it curmudgeonly? Do we have to quite so coy? And who are these "some", and these "others"? If the omission of the McEwan is making waves then let's just report it. And don't let's get started on "arguably"...
Friend or faux: A report on Wednesday that Dolce & Gabbana were designing clothes for Chelsea FC players included the following: "Footballers have also given us some of fashion's greatest faux pas, such as Chris Waddle's mullet, David Beckham matching outfits with his wife and Cristiano Ronaldo's denim hotpants." If a fashion item is judged to be a faux pas when it appears, as happened with Beckham and Ronaldo, then fair enough. But in the case of Chris Waddle's mullet, we are guilty of applying today's standards to an era long gone. Mullet haircuts might seem ridiculous now, but the sad truth is that, as with flared trousers, or sideburns, they did not seem so at the time.
Judi in this guise: “For one night only, Dame Judi to perform at the Proms,” said a headline on Tuesday about Judi Dench. But it s not as if soloists give a run of performances at the Proms. They are all there “for one night only”.
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