Errors & Omissions: When it comes to overused phrases and verbiage...

Two sentences published this week illustrate the use and abuse of the overused phrase "when it comes to ...".

First, the abuse. This is the opening of a news story published on Monday: "He may have fashioned a career out of creating beautiful things, but when it comes to spats with his neighbours the clothes designer Pierre Cardin is not afraid to turn ugly."

Oh, really? When does it come to spats with his neighbours? Every other Tuesday, perhaps. Read on and you discover that it doesn't "come to spats with his neighbours". He is involved in a single dispute about changes he has wrought in a village where he owns a chateau. Here, as usual, "when it comes to" is verbiage. In this case it serves to bolster a spurious contrast between "creating beautiful things" and "turning ugly". Is there really an inconsistency between artistic creation and a quarrelsome nature? No, this "beautiful/ugly" thing is just a pun.

But anyway, back to "when it comes to ...". Does the expression have a proper use? Yes. Here is Terence Blacker, writing on Tuesday: "It may be a tough sell when it comes to the Olympics, but there is something refreshing about this small-scale, local brand of patriotism." And when will it come to the Olympics? Why, next year in London, of course.

Forensic argument: Is "forensic" a lost cause? Here is a headline from Thursday: "Lawrence trial forensic expert admits: 'I made crucial mistake.'" Old-school chief sub-editors would take you out and shoot you for writing "forensic experts" when you mean "forensic scientists".

In ancient Rome the law courts sat in the forum. The related adjective forensis means "in the courts", and so does its English derivative "forensic". So you can speak of the forensic skill of a barrister. And science applied to criminal investigation is forensic science.

So far so good, but the trouble starts when policemen start referring to the police forensic science department as "Forensic". Now "forensic" means not "relating to court proceedings" but " relating to the scientific investigation of crime". Of course words change their meanings in the passage from one language to another. Look at "referendum", "argument" and "exit". But "forensic" appears to be in an uncomfortable adolescent stage, with different meanings running in parallel.

Journalese: Here is a picture caption from Thursday's paper: "The Paralympic silver medallist Monique van der Vorst, 27, was confined to a wheelchair for 14 years until a freak accident last year prompted a miracle recovery enabling her to regain the use of her legs."

That is one for the cliché museum – a freak accident and a miracle recovery in the same sentence. A freak once meant a sudden capricious change of mind. Now it is a "freak of nature", something monstrously different from the usual run of things. In journalese it is nearly always either a "freak wave" or a "freak accident". Usually they are not freakish at all, and so it is in this case.

The Dutch athlete had been paralysed from the waist down after an operation went wrong. She used a hand-propelled bicycle. Last year she was injured in a collision with another cyclist – and gradually recovered the use of her legs. Now her recovery could indeed be seen as a miracle; perhaps not the result of divine intervention, but still something to be wondered at – the basic meaning of "miracle". The objection to "miracle recovery" is simply that the expression has been cheapened by overuse. But "freak accident" is absurd. What is freakish about falling off a bike?

Suggested Topics
News
peopleFrankie Boyle responds to referendum result in characteristically offensive style
News
news
Arts and Entertainment
musicHunter Davies has collected nearly a hundred original  manuscripts
News
news
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
New Articles
i100
Life and Style
lifeAiming to show breasts in a non-sexual way for cancer awareness
New Articles
i100... while following the referendum
New Articles
i100... with this review
Voices
Holly's review of Peterborough's Pizza Express quickly went viral on social media
Arts and Entertainment
Nick Frost will star in the Doctor Who 2014 Christmas special
tvNick Frost, Natalie Gumede and Michael Troughton step up
Arts and Entertainment
Matthew Beard, Ben Schnetzer, Douglas Booth and Jack Farthing in ‘The Riot Club’
filmReview: Sheer nastiness of Riot Club takes you aback
Arts and Entertainment
tvBut something’s not quite right
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

Marketing Manager - Leicestershire - £35,000

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager (CIM, B2B, MS Offi...

Marketing Executive (B2B and B2C) - Rugby, Warwickshire

£22000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: A highly successful organisation wit...

SEN Coordinator + Teacher (SENCO)

£1 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Job Purpose To work closely with the he...

Research Manager - Quantitative/Qualitative

£32000 - £42000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week