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?

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Life and Style
Phillips Idowu, Stella McCartney and Jessica Ennis
fashionMcCartney to continue designing Team GB Olympics kit until 2016
Sport
Shinji Kagawa and Reece James celebrate after the latter scores in Manchester United's 7-0 victory over LA Galaxy
football
Voices
voicesGood for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, writes Grace Dent
Sport
Farah returns to the track with something to prove
Commonwealth games
Life and Style
fashion Designs are part of feminist art project by a British student
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
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

SQL Report Analyst (SSRS, CA, SQL 2012)

£30000 - £38500 Per Annum + 25 days holiday, pension, subsidised restaurant: C...

Application Support Analyst (SQL, Incident Management, SLAs)

£34000 - £37000 Per Annum + excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Lt...

Embedded Software / Firmware Engineer

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Pension, Holiday, Flexi-time: Progressive Recruitm...

Developer - WinForms, C#

£280 - £320 per day: Progressive Recruitment: C#, WinForms, Desktop Developmen...

Day In a Page

Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism