Errors & Omissions: Uncontrollable outbreak of journalese results in tragedy

"Have you heard? This woman died in a skiing accident, and then about a year later her elderly uncle died too. He had been in poor health for some time."

"Yes, and your point is ...?"

Well, there is no point to that story. Indeed it isn't a story at all – just two unconnected events. So what is going on in the following paragraph, which opened Wednesday's news report of the death of Corin Redgrave?

"Corin Redgrave, the eminent stage and screen actor, who was a member of Britain's most illustrious acting dynasty, has died aged 70, his family announced yesterday. As the uncle of the late actress Natasha Richardson, who died last March after a skiing accident, this is the second tragedy to hit the Redgrave family in the just over [sic] 12 months."

What is going on is a bad outbreak of journalese, centred on the word "tragedy" which is journalese for "death". As so often, the function of a journalese word is to create drama by setting up a phoney relationship between unrelated events.

You could reasonably call Natasha Richardson's death a tragedy. But there is nothing remotely tragic about the death from natural causes of a man aged 70, after a life of many achievements. Everybody would have liked him to live longer, but in the end death comes for us all, and there is no more to be said.

Why mention Natasha Richardson at all? Thirteen months is a stretch for the "acting dynasty in double-death tragedy" angle. One suspects that the reference to her may have been shoved in by a hasty editorial hand, eager to include anything of possible interest, regardless of relevance. For the second sentence of that paragraph is a mess. "In the just over 12 months" is clear evidence of bungled rewriting. And the syntax of the sentence doesn't work. "As the uncle ..." needs to link up with a noun or pronoun indicating Corin Redgrave, but it isn't there. The reader is left to struggle with "As the uncle ... this is the second tragedy ..."

A tragedy indeed.

Devaluation: More journalese from a news report on Thursday: "The central Asian state of Kyrgyzstan was in complete chaos last night as the president fled the capital after violent clashes."

If you are used to using the word "chaos" to mean transport disruption, then when you really mean chaos you have to resort to "complete chaos".

Mixed metaphor of the week (1): The eagle-eyed Alan Hendry writes in to draw attention to Monday's news story about a row in Hamburg over a new concert hall: "The Elbe Philharmonic Hall is years behind schedule and saddled with an explosion in costs which are 12 times those envisaged when plans were unveiled seven years ago."

Saddled with an explosion? Well, this is Germany. Remember the folk tale in which Little Hans is taking a horse to market? Suddenly a mysterious sorcerer appears. There is a flash of light and puff of smoke, and ... Well, maybe.

Mixed metaphor of the week (2): Stephen King wrote in his Tuesday column: "The Federal Reserve Board stoked up the biggest financial bubble in modern history." I can't think of a cod fairy tale in which it is possible to visualise stoking a bubble.

Artistic inspiration: This is from our report on Wednesday on Barcelona's victory over Arsenal and the performance of Lionel Messi: "In the context of Arsène Wenger evoking J B Priestly and suggesting this tie would be football art, watching Barcelona's celestial No 10 slice Arsenal apart felt like the game's equivalent of seeing Laurence Olivier's Hamlet, Orson Welles directing Citizen Kane or Pablo Picasso painting Guernica."

It is perhaps churlish to pick holes in a match report composed against the clock, but nobody can watch Welles directing Kane or Picasso painting Guernica – we can only see the results. And if J B Priestley is to be evoked, he really should be spelt right.

Capital crime: The silly fashion for putting a capital "T" on to "the" gets ever sillier. In last Saturday's magazine, an article on the illustrator Dick Bruna informed us: "Bruna was born in The Netherlands in 1927."

If The Netherlands, why not The Highlands, The Lake District or The United States of America?

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
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

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine