Errors & Omissions: What's in a name? Unintentional sexism, for a start


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The Independent Online

Olympic successes have made this a big week for women's sport. Cyclist Lizzie Armitstead won Britain's first medal, swimmer Rebecca Adlington its second, and rowers Heather Stanning and Helen Glover the country's first gold of the Olympic Games. But these triumphs have led to a debate about sexism in sport, and I wondered if, in a small way, a headline we carried in Monday's newspaper underlined the problem.

"Who needs Cavendish when you've got Lizzie?" it read – Cavendish being the top male cyclist Mark Cavendish, and Lizzie being the silver medal-winning Armitstead. It was doubtless quite unconscious, but there's a surname/first name discrepancy here – and an implication that we don't quite take the woman athlete as seriously as we take the male athlete. You can be equally familiar, or equally unfamiliar, but mixing them up is to be avoided.

Daley denied Diver Tom Daley might also have a bone to pick with us. On Tuesday's front page he was pictured with two other GB Olympians under the headline "Everything but the gold". Daley and his partner Pete Waterfield had missed out on a medal entirely, but they did at least come fourth. Shame the caption said they came fifth.

By the way, readers of a certain age might have caught the reference in the headline to the 1980s pop duo Everything but the Girl.

Grey area Get the Picture – the picture-based quiz that appears at the back of the Saturday magazine – is one of the paper's most cherished features. But it depends – crucially – on the pictures translating accurately into the words that make up the answers. Last week's theme was Olympic multiple gold medallists, and one answer was Steve Redgrave – the "Red" part of his name being supplied by a picture of a red squirrel. Except the squirrel wasn't red; it was grey. Steve Greygrave? It just doesn't have the same ring.

Oxford united? No debate about the Oxford comma ever stays calm for long, so it's with trepidation that I introduce the subject. I'm broadly an Oxford man myself, and a headline in last Saturday's paper showed why. "The doctor, a British spy and the hunt for Osama," it read. To my way of thinking, it needs an Oxford comma: "The doctor, a British spy, and the hunt for Osama." The rhythm demands it – the pause afforded by the second (Oxford) comma heightening the sense of drama. What do you think?

Guy Keleny returns next week