Errors and Omissions: A common confusion that fools the English in spades

Our Letters editor casts his eye over this week's Independent coverage

Share

A couple of people have written in to point out this, from a TV preview published last Saturday: “I know the palate is supposed to be subdued, but past episodes were so dark on my television screen that I could hardly make out what was going on.”

That should be “palette”. It is a common confusion, and it arises because the English pronunciations of two unrelated words have converged.

A palette is the wooden tablet on which an artist lays out colours, and hence the range of colours used. The word is a diminutive of the French pale, meaning the blade of an oar. That is derived in turn from the Latin pala meaning spade.

The palate is the structure in your head that separates the mouth from the nasal cavities. The word is direct from Latin – palatum means the same thing.

-----------------------

In the face of a strong challenge from politics, the language of finance and economics remains our finest source of mad metaphors. Hamish McRae wrote on Wednesday: “The very rich also tend to keep their funds offshore, with Switzerland remaining the largest single location.” Only in the crazy world of money is landlocked Switzerland “offshore”.

-----------------------

 “The showpiece sculpture sits on the façade of The Beaumont Hotel, which is due to open in London’s Mayfair later this year,” averred a news story on Wednesday. There are three things to note here.

First, how did the Beaumont Hotel become The Beaumont Hotel? The capital T on “The”, once found only in the titles of some periodicals and literary works – The Lady, The Mayor of Casterbridge – has in recent years undergone a dreadful devaluation. The group who, when they existed, were the Beatles have become The Beatles; the Dog and Duck has become The Dog and Duck. Why? How long before we see The High Street, The World Cup and The European Union?

Second, “London’s Mayfair”. This construction is pure, 24-carat journalese. Nowhere is it found outside the news media; not in academic papers, literary novels or political speeches. Neither at classy dinner parties nor in the public bar of the dear old Dog and Duck will you hear anyone remark that they live in London’s Cricklewood or are going away for a weekend to Spain’s Barcelona.

And finally, “later” is redundant. The hotel can hardly be going to open earlier this year.

-----------------------

It is easy to trip up on the tenses that English builds with auxiliary verbs. An article on Wednesday told how T S Eliot and Groucho Marx admired each other’s work, but failed to get on when they finally met. (Astonishing, but true, apparently.)

“Eliot wanted to hear what it was like to make those movies, but Groucho… preferred to quote to Eliot the vast chunks of The Waste Land that he’d memorised. Eliot couldn’t be less interested in hearing his own poetry spouted back at him.”

Since the whole passage is describing the past, that should be “couldn’t have been less interested”.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat