Errors and Omissions: A lord by any other name might be better known

The slips in this week's Independent coverage

Share

We reported on Monday that Lord Blencathra, a “senior Conservative”, had signed a contract which appeared to commit him to lobby his fellow parliamentarians on behalf of the Cayman Islands. Our front-page report described him as a former Tory Chief Whip, but his title would have been obscure to most readers. I wondered if he had been the party’s chief whip in the House of Lords, but did not remember the name. It was not until I saw the picture of him on page 4 that I recognised him as David Maclean, who had been MP for Penrith and the Border from 1983 to 2010, a Home Office minister in John Major’s government and opposition chief whip in the Commons from 2001-05. He was better known under this name, and we should have found a way of letting our readers know who this mysterious person is.

“At the height of its dive, the aircraft was descending at a rate of 15,000ft per minute.” This was how we reported on Saturday the “terrifying plunge” of an RAF jet when the pilot got his camera stuck between his seat and the joystick. As Anthony Slack pointed out, it would have been better to write: “The aircraft descended at a rate reaching 15,000ft per minute.”

I discovered what had happened to Tracey Ullman, last seen singing “My Guy” with Neil Kinnock in the video in 1984, in an outstanding obituary of Allan McKeown on Thursday. Reader, she married him. The obituary was let down by a strapline along the top of the page which gave a short label to McKeown: “Television industry figure”. This was presumably to avoid repeating the better description in the headline, “Television and theatre producer”, but “figure” is one of those weak words that should always be replaced. “Birds of a Feather producer” would have been better.

The same obituary also contained one of those troublesome phrases that, once noticed, cannot be unnoticed. It said McKeown’s “Midas touch was unfailing for the next few years” – when he produced Lovejoy (1986) and Birds of a Feather (1989). But Midas’s touch was a curse, and its early meaning as a figure of speech was to be careful what you wish for. Of course it is widely used to mean a knack for success, so everyone knows what the writer means, but it is a cliché. Worse, it is a cliché that advertises ignorance of the original fable, just as misuse of the Canute story does. Time for Midas and Canute to be pensioned off.

Yesterday we had George Orwell’s “famous essay, ‘Politics and the English Language’”, the “famous Enigma machine” and the “famous ‘maxi-trial’ process” in Italy. If readers have heard of them, we do not need to be told that they are well known. I had not heard of the “maxi-trial” process, but fortunately the writer went on to explain that it was when hundreds of mobsters were “caged in a single swoop”, prompting the Mafia to murder several politicians, police and magistrates in 1992 and 1993. The word “famous” added nothing.

Guy Keleny is away

React Now

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

VB.Net Developer - £40k - Surrey - WANTED ASAP

£35000 - £40000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .Mid Level V...

Digitakl Business Analyst, Slough

£40000 - £45000 per annum + Competitive Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Dig...

Mechanical Estimator: Nuclear Energy - Sellafield

£40000 - £50000 per annum + Car, Medical, Fuel + More!: Progressive Recruitmen...

Dynamics NAV Techno-Functional Consultant

£50000 - £60000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: An absolutely o...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Our media are suffering a new experience: not fear of being called anti-Semitic'  

Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk
David Cameron (pictured) can't steal back my party's vote that easily, says Nigel Farage  

Cameron’s benefits pledge is designed to lure back Ukip voters. He’ll have to try harder

Nigel Farage
Dress the Gaza situation up all you like, but the truth hurts

Robert Fisk on Gaza conflict

Dress the situation up all you like, but the truth hurts
Save the tiger: Tiger, tiger burning less brightly as numbers plummet

Tiger, tiger burning less brightly

When William Blake wrote his famous poem there were probably more than 100,000 tigers in the wild. These days they probably number around 3,200
5 News's Andy Bell retraces his grandfather's steps on the First World War battlefields

In grandfather's footsteps

5 News's political editor Andy Bell only knows his grandfather from the compelling diary he kept during WWI. But when he returned to the killing fields where Edwin Vaughan suffered so much, his ancestor came to life
Lifestyle guru Martha Stewart reveals she has flying robot ... to take photos of her farm

Martha Stewart has flying robot

The lifestyle guru used the drone to get a bird's eye view her 153-acre farm in Bedford, New York
Former Labour minister Meg Hillier has demanded 'pootling lanes' for women cyclists

Do women cyclists need 'pootling lanes'?

Simon Usborne (who's more of a hurtler) explains why winning the space race is key to happy riding
A tale of two presidents: George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story

A tale of two presidents

George W Bush downs his paintbrush to pen father’s life story
Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover

The dining car makes a comeback

Restaurateur Mitch Tonks has given the Great Western Pullman dining car a makeover
Gallery rage: How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?

Gallery rage

How are institutions tackling the discomfort of overcrowding this summer?
Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players

Eye on the prize

Louis van Gaal has £500,000 video surveillance system installed to monitor Manchester United players
Women's rugby: Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup

Women's rugby

Tamara Taylor adds fuel to the ire in quest to land World Cup
Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices