Errors & Omissions: Some vehicles should never have been allowed on the road

  • @SimonOHagan

We reported on Wednesday the news that plans to make a film about the relationship between Edwina Mountbatten and Jawaharlal Nehru had been put on hold. In referring to Working Title, the production company behind the project, we said that "its biggest-grossing films include the romantic comedies and Hugh Grant vehicles Notting Hill and Four Weddings and a Funeral".

A "vehicle" in the film sense is a production in which an established star is given the lead role with the likely guarantee that audiences will buy tickets almost irrespective of the film's overall merits. The star's presence is what counts.

When Hugh Grant appeared in Four Weddings, now all of 15 years ago, he was very far from an established star. He had a few films to his name but it was Four Weddings that transformed him from a relative unknown. So the film couldn't have been a Hugh Grant vehicle, and to describe the subsequent Notting Hill as such is also not quite right in that it was no more a vehicle for Grant than it was a vehicle for Julia Roberts. Surely no film that is a vehicle for a star has room for any other.


Geography lesson: On Wednesday we ran a long account of life inside the favelas of Rio de Janeiro. With it we published one locator map showing which parts of Rio we were talking about, and a second, smaller locator map showing where Rio was in relation to the rest of South America. Quite whether readers need to be told where a city as famous as Rio stands is possibly open to question, but if we are going to do it then we should probably highlight the correct spot and not suggest, as we did, that the Brazilian city can be found somewhere on the coast of Peru.


No light at the end of this tunnel: It may be time we gave up on the battle for the correct use of the word "coruscate". From time to time in this column, my colleague Guy Keleny highlights another instance of the word being used to mean something like "excoriating", or "blistering", or perhaps "corrosive" (most recently in May this year), when it actually means throwing off flashes of light.

I wouldn't have felt the need to return to the subject had our latest transgression not been so glaring. In a page-wide puff, in huge capital letters, on page 2 of last Saturday's paper, we drew readers' attention to the following day's Independent on Sunday and its canvassing of opinion on Tony Blair. The puff read: "WE ASKED: COULD YOU STOMACH THIS MAN AS EU PRESIDENT? NOW READ THE CORUSCATING VERDICTS."


Ouch: Here's the opening sentence to a feature about the designer Cath Kidston that appeared in a Retail supplement we published on Thursday: "Today, Cath Kidston's iconic floral prints and affordable household items, that lend more than a nod to the trend for vintage chic, appear in must-have lists and households across the world."

OK, so where to begin. First, I guess, with "iconic". Does it really need to be repeated that "iconic" is now so overused, and so frequently misused, as to be a word writers should avoid at all costs? Then there is that "that" at the beginning of the subordinate clause, which should of course be a "which". "Must-have" is one of those hackneyed formulations never encountered outside the world of newspapers, likewise "nod to". Two "households" in one sentence is not great either, and was it ever a good idea to begin a story with the word "Today", followed by a comma?


Joining the club: Does the concept of the Establishment mean very much any more? There is always a political elite, and some think there is now a media elite, but the Establishment as it existed when, say, John Profumo was getting involved with Christine Keeler, is surely no more. So what are we to make of the report, in yesterday's Arts and Books supplement, that Pink Floyd have now "joined the establishment" because an album cover of theirs is to be used on a stamp? Pink Floyd date back more than 40 years. They might have been avant-garde in 1967 but that doesn't stop them from being one of the most establishment bands around.