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Errors & Omissions

Errors & Omissions: HRH? Her Majesty the Queen would not have been amused


Jenny Banks-Bryer writes in to draw attention to a chatty piece about the Jubilee in last Saturday's magazine. It referred to the Queen once as "HRH QEII" and again as "HRH 'Lilibet'". We shall pass over the jaunty nicknames, but this "HRH" business has gone far enough. This not being North Korea, everybody has a right to make fun of royal titles, but they should get them right, on pain of looking ignorant.

HRH stands for His/Her Royal Highness, a style associated with princes and princesses of the United Kingdom – that is to say with the children of sovereigns and the children of the sons of sovereigns. That is the general rule, established by George V, though there are exceptions. Most, but by no means all, of the people you think of as members of the Royal Family are Royal Highnesses. The Queen is not. She is Her Majesty – HM, as in HM Government, HM Revenue and Customs and so on.

London rules: All national news media, this newspaper as much as any, are constantly accused of being too "Londoncentric" – greeting with both ignorance and indifference the world beyond the M25. That may very well be so, but on occasions a bit more familiarity with the history and geography of London would do no harm. (Citizens of the wider world may wish to avoid Londoncentricity by skipping the next two paragraphs.)

The subject of "My Secret Life" in last Saturday's magazine was the musician Suggs. He told the interviewer that he grew up in a flat above the old Maples store "on the corner of Tottenham Court Road ... It was a 10-minute walk to the heart of Camden Town and 10 minutes the other way to the heart of Soho".

So far, so good, but the "Life in Brief" summary edited all that down to "He grew up in London's Soho". Not if the flat was on Tottenham Court Road, he didn't. That commercial thoroughfare, famed for its electronics shops, runs north from central London towards Camden Town. It forms the boundary between Bloomsbury to the east and Fitzrovia to the west. Soho lies farther to the south, separated from Fitzrovia by Oxford Street.

Capital notion: (Welcome back – no more pearly kings and Cockney sparrers from now on.) We now cross the Atlantic from London to the US. On Wednesday, a business page reported that a Saudi prince had "amassed a property portfolio that spans the US, from BAE offices in Reston, Virginia, near the capital Washington, to the headquarters of the television company Stars in California". It's not the most terrible thing, but there is something sadly clumsy about "near the capital Washington". There is no need to tell anybody that Washington is the capital of the US. "Near Washington" would have done fine.

Up and down: This is from a Tuesday news report about a record for cycling round the world: "The route taken by each person in the race was down to the individual." Or should that be "up to"? There is widespread uncertainty about the difference between "up to" and "down to", but it seems clear: things you have to do are up to you; things you have done are down to you – down on your scorecard, so to speak. In the case of the round-the-world cyclists, "down to" is not wrong, since the choice of route was in the past. But you suspect the writer really meant "up to", the point being that they had a free choice.