Errors & Omissions: When a factually correct headline masks a wildly sexist premise

 

"The granny with Sir Humphrey in her crosshairs" was the headline on the Monday Interview, the subject of which was Margaret Hodge MP, chairman of the Public Accounts Committee, who is gunning for Whitehall mandarins.

There is one thing to say in favour of the word "granny": Ms Hodge is indeed a grandmother, so it is factually correct. The rest is all bad. Her status as a grandmother has no relevance to the story; to mention it is wildly sexist. No one would dream of labelling a male senior MP "grandad", except in relation to a story about his grandchildren. Further, we have here a stereotype being used to set up a false contradiction. A "granny", as everybody knows, is a sweet old lady who dispenses sweeties, sympathy and good advice. Chairmen of the PAC, on the other hand, are very tough, clever men in suits and ties. So calling Hodge a "granny" suggests that there is an interesting contrast between her family status and her political role. In fact, there isn't.

Mixed metaphor of the week: "But the boost to fertility comes against a backdrop of increasing pressure for a change in the law." That sentence comes from a news story, published on Monday, about donor conceptions. A backdrop is a piece of canvas stage scenery. What a backdrop of increasing pressure would look like, or how you would set about making one, is difficult to say.

Romantic lead: Yesterday's Arts & Books section carried an interview with the actor Liam Neeson. At one point the report's logic suffered a glitch: "Off-screen he famously dated Helen Mirren as well as capturing the romantic attentions of Julia Roberts, Brooke Shields, Cher and Sinead O'Connor. Neeson proved the ultimate gentleman, never kissing or telling." What, no kissing? It is impossible to believe that Neeson, who is I am sure a real man as well as a real gentleman, proved such a disappointment to such a succession of glamorous women. That should have read "never kissing and telling".

Number crunching: Writers seem to be losing the ability to tell the difference between one thing and more than one.This is from an analysis piece about James Murdoch, published on Wednesday: "His grand title and far-flung possessions were that of a mighty potentate." That should be "were those of a mighty potentate". "Were" is plural; "that" is singular and they don't go together.

At least in English we don't have to cope with gender as well as number. So we need to be careful when venturing into French – unlike this headline, from Thursday: "Le nouveau Maigret est arrivée". Since Maigret is masculine, that should be "arrivé".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Junior Web Developer

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is a world leader ...

Recruitment Genius: Telesales Executive - OTE £25,000

£13000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to be part of a ...

Recruitment Genius: 1st Line Technical Support Engineer

£19000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This IT and Telecoms company ar...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Manager - Visitor Fundraising

£23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Visitor Fundraising Team is responsi...

Day In a Page

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

The honours that shame Britain

Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

International Tap Festival comes to the UK

Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border
Doris Lessing: Acclaimed novelist was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show

'A subversive brothel keeper and Communist'

Acclaimed novelist Doris Lessing was kept under MI5 observation for 18 years, newly released papers show
Big Blue Live: BBC's Springwatch offshoot swaps back gardens for California's Monterey Bay

BBC heads to the Californian coast

The Big Blue Live crew is preparing for the first of three episodes on Sunday night, filming from boats, planes and an aquarium studio
Austin Bidwell: The Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England with the most daring forgery the world had known

Victorian fraudster who shook the Bank of England

Conman Austin Bidwell. was a heartless cad who carried out the most daring forgery the world had known
Car hacking scandal: Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked

Car hacking scandal

Security designed to stop thieves hot-wiring almost every modern motor has been cracked
10 best placemats

Take your seat: 10 best placemats

Protect your table and dine in style with a bold new accessory
Ashes 2015: Alastair Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Cook not the only one to be caught in The Oval mindwarp

Aussie skipper Michael Clarke was lured into believing that what we witnessed at Edgbaston and Trent Bridge would continue in London, says Kevin Garside
Can Rafael Benitez get the best out of Gareth Bale at Real Madrid?

Can Benitez get the best out of Bale?

Back at the club he watched as a boy, the pressure is on Benitez to find a winning blend from Real's multiple talents. As La Liga begins, Pete Jenson asks if it will be enough to stop Barcelona
Athletics World Championships 2015: Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jessica Ennis-Hill and Katarina Johnson-Thompson heptathlon rivalry

Beijing witnesses new stage in the Jess and Kat rivalry

The last time the two British heptathletes competed, Ennis-Hill was on the way to Olympic gold and Johnson-Thompson was just a promising teenager. But a lot has happened in the following three years
Jeremy Corbyn: Joining a shrewd operator desperate for power as he visits the North East

Jeremy Corbyn interview: A shrewd operator desperate for power

His radical anti-austerity agenda has caught the imagination of the left and politically disaffected and set a staid Labour leadership election alight
Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief: Defender of ancient city's past was killed for protecting its future

Isis executes Palmyra antiquities chief

Robert Fisk on the defender of the ancient city's past who was killed for protecting its future