Apologies and Corrections
Today I am taking the opportunity to put right some of the errors that have crept into the column in recent months, and have attracted readers' attention:
Seas: I recently referred to sailing the seven seas. Mrs Onslow of Preston writes to ask me what these seven seas are. Quite right, Mrs Onslow. I have investigated, and there are over 450 seas in the world. Many have more than one name. For instance, the North Sea is not known as the North Sea by the Icelanders, but the South Sea. In future I will refer to "sailing the in excess of 450 seas".
Corners: I recently referred to the four corners of the earth. Mrs Onslow of Preston also wrote to ask me what these four corners were. Well, Mrs Onslow, they are the four corners of the Daily Telegraph World Map Poster which I have hanging in my kitchen and from which I do all my geographical research. Oddly enough, the bottom right-hand corner shows New Zealand and so does the bottom left-hand corner, while Siberia appears in both the top corners. In future, I shall refer to the "two corners of the earth".
Box of matches: WR of Merthyr points out that a box, strictly speaking, is a container with a lid. The thing that matches are kept in is more like a drawer that slides in and out of an outer casing, and therefore not really a box at all. "Should we not say 'a cabinet of matches'?" he asks. Spot on. A "cabinet of matches" it is from now on.
War: Why, NR of Berwick on Tweed wants to know, is the Falklands War called a war and the Suez invasion an invasion and not a war? Well, Mr NR, this is because we call a thing a war when we have won it, but not if we lost it. Then we downgrade it to an invasion, an uprising or something less important. That is why the Americans do not call the Vietnam War the "Vietnam War"; they call it "Vietnam". If we had lost the Boer War, it would have been called the Boer Incident.
Land of the Rising Sun: If, as we said, Japan is the "land of the rising sun", asks Mrs KT of Twickenham, where is "the land of the setting sun"? Well, Japan could also be the land of the setting sun if there were another country to the east which could then look towards Japan and see the setting sun over it. As it is, there isn't. Only empty sea. Wales could be the land of the setting sun, if its tourist board was up to it. And if it wasn't always raining there. Write to them about it.
Hoi polloi: Mr Oscar Williams of Exeter writes to object that we used "the hoi polloi" to refer to "the elite", or "the upper crust", whereas it means the exact opposite, being Greek for "the many". And we should not have said "The hoi polloi", as "hoi" already means "the" and therefore we were saying "the the many". Well done, Mr Williams! This is a deliberate mistake that we slip in to the column every now and again, when we think we are not getting enough letters from readers, and then they come flooding in! But from now on we shall just say "the upper crust".
Upper crust: Mrs Onslow writes in to object to the expression "upper crust". She says that the use of "upper crust" implies that there is also a "lower crust", but there is no such thing. Therefore we should just say "the crust". Well, frankly, Mrs Onslow, in the words of Clark Gable, I couldn't give a damn.
Give a damn: Mrs Onslow has written in again to point out that what Clark Gable actually said at the end of Gone With the Wind was "Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn". Well, frankly, Mrs Onslow, you can, in the immortal words of Billy Bunter, go and boil your head in oil.
Billy Bunter: I have had a letter about misquoting Billy Bunter which I have thrown away without reading. I have also had an e-mail objecting to the title of this piece, "Apologies and Corrections". I see the corrections, says Mr BC of Oxford, but where are the apologies? In a pig's eye, Mr BC, in a pig's eye.
Pig's Eye: Mrs Onslow writes in to dispute the usage of "in a pig's eye"...
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