Errors and Omissions: Can you have too much ubiquity? Oh yes, you can

Eagle-eyed pedantry from the Independent on Sunday's chief political commentator
  • @johnrentoul

Our profile of Johnnie Boden last Saturday was introduced thus: “The clothes he sells are the epitome of middle-class conformity. But have they become too ubiquitous?” As Alan Knight pointed out, something is either ubiquitous – everywhere – or it is not. There are no degrees of ubiquity, just as something is either unique – singular – or it is not. “Too ubiquitous” is like “very unique”.

Actually, nothing about this introduction makes much sense. Is it the middle classness or the conformity of which Mr Boden’s clothes are the perfect example? I don’t know, but if I were Guy Keleny, I would suspect a little of that last acceptable prejudice – against the middle class.

* Many pedantries can be filed under “It doesn’t matter but try to avoid this because there is no point in irritating the fuddy-duddies who care about it”, and the use of “hopefully”, which really is too ubiquitous, is one. Our Diary reported on Tuesday that Justine Greening, the International Development Secretary, had offered British support to Indonesians after the typhoon hit the Philippines. “Hopefully, her staff have a better grasp of geography than their boss,” we said. Her staff may or may not have been hopeful. What our diarist could have said is “I hope that”.

* In reporting on Monday the case of the Saudi Arabian boy who was spared execution for shooting dead an elderly relative after mistaking her for a monkey, we said: “Saudi Arabia has a criminal justice system based on Sharia law.” Sharia means “law” or “moral code” in Arabic.

* Most pedants take a dim view of the word “famously”. If something is really famous, they say, the adverb is redundant, and, if it is not famous enough, sticking the word in won’t make it so. But I came across this in our report on Tuesday of the restrictions on abortions in Texas: “An earlier attempt in June was famously blocked by an 11th-hour filibuster by a Democrat state senator, Wendy Davis.” Had we deleted “famously”, the sentence would have dribbled past me, adding nothing. Instead, the word said, “You remember, don’t you?” And I did. She was the one who wore pink trainers to stand for 11 hours (not at the 11th hour) delivering her speech to block the law. Which just goes to show you should never be absolutist about language rules.

On Wednesday, we wrote about the Collider exhibition at the Science Museum, saying it “gives a decent impression of what it’s like to get up close and personal with the Large Hadron Collider”. Google tells me that Up Close and Personal was a 1996 film. It also tells me that there was a 2002 film starring Jennifer Lopez called Enough.

An editorial on Monday asked if the Iranian talks had reached a “stalemate” and rightly concluded they had not, but for the wrong reason. A stalemate in chess is a draw, often as the result of a mistake by the player who should have won. We meant to ask if the talks were deadlocked.

In our sports pages yesterday, we described the “emergence” of Cory Allen, playing rugby for Wales for the first time today against Argentina, as “meteoric”. Meteors fall.

Guy Keleny is away