Errors & Omissions: You'll find that way down below is not a place we wish to go
Saturday 08 May 2010
On Thursday we carried a useful guide to the possible outcomes of the election. The heading said: "So what will we wake up to on Friday morning? One of the below."
Opposites are not always strictly logical. The opposite of the "the above" is not "the below" but "the following". "One of the below" looks weird: the reader is left wondering whether it was a simple mental lapse, a misfired joke or just a desperate attempt to get round the sad fact that "One of the following" would not have fitted in the space available for the headline.
And flickering on the edge of the reader's awareness are dark memories of fantasy novels, computer games and horror movies. "The below" sounds horribly like "the Below" – who are obviously a malignant race of demons or plague-bearing zombies, raging to break out of their underground lairs and lay waste to humanity.
Actually, given the gruesome result of the election, that may not be too wide of the mark after all.
Left hand, right hand: A news story on Thursday's business pages reported on the postponement of a rights issue by Prudential: "The company had hurriedly arranged a series of conference calls and briefings with analysts on Tuesday afternoon, only to cancel them yesterday as the planned cash call was put on hold by the Financial Services Authority."
Readers who turned over to the Business Diary on the next page found this item: "Tidjane Thiam has kept a relatively low profile with the press since stepping into the chief executive's office at Prudential last year. All that was meant to change yesterday, with a round-table lunch scheduled so that Thiam could impress City hacks with details of the massive fundraising Pru intended to launch. Cue last-minute cancellation of the invite when the FSA put the mockers on the cash call."
Get a grip. A diary column is there to give the readers some jolly little tales that might tickle their fancy but are not important enough to merit coverage as news. Just repeating, in jaunty language, information that has already been reported in a news story doesn't do the business. It looks as if the writers of the news story and the diary item were each unaware of what the other was doing, which is embarrassing.
Not into "into": An article on Monday's science page reported: "This week Dame Deirdre Hine, who is conducting an independent review into the Government's response to the swine flu pandemic, will take evidence from journalists."
Time was when a review of something or an inquiry into it would produce a report on it. In recent years we have become familiar with "report into", but this is the first time I have seen "review into". The onward march of "into" does not make the language less clear, but it does make it a tiny bit less vivid and less fun. Dreary uniformity is always to be deplored, and the variety of prepositions deserves to be preserved, like rare breeds of cattle.
Picture puzzle: "The Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on his way to the US yesterday." That was the caption to a large picture that was carried across the top of a world news page on Monday.
The picture showed Mr Ahmadinejad, flanked by smiling officials, raising a closed book to his lips and kissing it. Why? Was it perhaps the Koran? Or the text of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty? I have no idea – and if those responsible for the page didn't know either, the obvious course was to use a different picture.
No performance: On Monday we carried a World Briefing item about the Pope's visit to Turin to venerate the relic known as the Holy Shroud. The item reported that the Pope "prayed before the relic after performing an open-air Mass with some 25,000 faithful in the Italian city".
"Performing" sounds as if a Eucharist service were a performance put on for an audience. Those who take part in it certainly do not see it that way. The officiating priest, in this case the Pope, does not "perform" the Mass, he celebrates it.
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