Errors & Omissions: Don't be vague when two famous people have names that sound the same


Matthew Norman had fun on Monday, speculating that Ed Balls might launch a putsch against Ed Miliband when the Labour leader "goes under the knife" to cure his sleep apnoea.

Norman wrote that, if the shadow chancellor "does an Alexander Hague when Reagan was shot, and tries to pull imaginary rank on Harriet Harman, all will be clearer". He was not, however, referring to a previously overlooked brother of the Foreign Secretary's, but to Alexander Haig, Reagan's secretary of state, who said, while the president was in hospital and Vice President George HW Bush was on his way back to the White House: "As of now, I am in control here."

Metaphor madness: Catrina Stewart wrote a report with the flavour of a spy novel on Monday, about the suspicions of pro-Palestinian activists that Israeli intelligence was sabotaging their attempts to sail to Gaza to publicise the partial blockade of the territory. She concluded: "Whether these incidents are part of a government-led effort to derail the flotilla remain unclear." Perhaps I am going soft, but I enjoyed the vision of a fleet on rails across the Mediterranean so much that it would almost have been a shame to change it.

Metaphor madness 2: Yesterday, an article about schoolchildren being withdrawn from the cast of an opera because of its homosexual theme mentioned that Benjamin Britten's The Little Sweep is rarely staged. It is an opera about a chimney sweep, apparently. It was a little odd, though, to suggest that people were "quietly brushing The Little Sweep under the carpet".

Silver lining: We often get into trouble with matters naval or military, and so we did on Wednesday with a short picture story. It was about "the formidable WW2 battleship HMS Belfast" and the "giant Silver Cloud", a "luxury cruise liner", which had moored alongside. First, our style is Second World War, not WW2, although the short form could be permissible when space is tight. Second, Belfast is a heavy cruiser, not a battleship. Third, Silver Cloud is not a "giant" or a "liner". As the report said, it "carries 296 passengers", which is not many for a ship. It is a luxury cruise ship.

Lounging about: "Napoleon's Sister is the Ideal Face of Female Beauty", we reported on Wednesday. Canova's sculpture of her came top of a poll of Italians as their ideal depiction of female beauty. Of the sculpture we reported that "Paolina Bonaparte is shown as Venus reclining on a chaise lounge". That is what happens when we use foreign phrases. It is a chaise longue, or long chair. But we could hardly call it a long chair. Perhaps we should anglicise it as chaise lounge, after all.

Double bonus: One of my favourite tautologies appeared on our sports pages on Thursday. We said that Andre Villas-Boas, the new Chelsea manager, "comes with the added bonus of having worked closely with Mourinho", a predecessor. But a bonus means something that is added, so "added" should have been crossed out.

Soundalike: Thanks to Peter Henderson, who writes to point out that James Corrigan's golf column on Thursday opened with the words: "Anybody desperately pouring through the golfing formbooks ..." Pour and pore are two words that are often confused. To pore over books or documents means to study them with intense concentration. To pour through books, on the other hand, conveys a bizarre image of an army of golfing fans breaking though a barrier of paper.

The Banned List: Sorry to report that my campaign against clichés has not enjoyed complete success in the past week. "Key" was used as an adjective 24 times, and last Saturday's Information said that imagery in A Clockwork Orange "remains iconic". Both are on the Banned List. Get with the ceasing and desisting.

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