Errors and Omissions: How to make a drama out of a few inaccuracies

Our letters editor takes to task this week's Independent coverage

Share

 “Black militant, fugitive cop killer, terrorist threat … or escaped slave?” That misfired headline appeared on Saturday over an article about one of the FBI’s “most wanted” fugitives.

A headline wants to create drama. So it sets up as supposed alternatives three bad things – militant, killer, terrorist – and a good one – escaped slave. The trouble is, it is perfectly possible for the same person to be all of these things at once. They are not alternatives. And anyway, what is wrong with being a black militant? One further point: “cop-killer” should be hyphenated, if you want it to mean someone who has killed a cop. A fugitive cop killer, with no hyphen, would be a killer of fugitive cops.

 

We are forced to witness the long, slow death-agony of “whom”. This week, from a television preview of The Ladykillers on Thursday, comes this: “Alec Guinness plays a criminal mastermind whose plans are spoiled by his landlady, a sweet and innocent old woman who he and his gang just don’t seem able to bump off.” Was there any reason not to say “whom”?

 

 Another frequent new blot on the language is the failure of number agreement. This from a book review published last Saturday: “The super-real world of Murakami will spring to some readers’ mind.”

“Spring to mind” is a familiar phrase, but don’t allow familiarity to trump logic. As it stands, this implies that “some readers” have only a single mind between them. Make it “minds”.

 

“John went into the trenches in February 1918, just prior to the final German advance in March,” said an article in last Saturday’s magazine, about the recollections of men who fought in the First World War.

Why “prior to” instead of “before”? It goes against the grain to use two words where one will do, and to use a Romance word when there is a perfectly good Anglo‑Saxon one. And “prior to” has a prissy, officialese air to it, a desire to use important-sounding words.

 

A Screen Talk item last Saturday told us about Vin Diesel’s new movie. It is a “supernatural action film” in which Diesel appears as a “semi-immortal witch-hunter”. What can that possibly mean? Does only half of him die? I suppose in that sort of film anything is possible.

 

Roger Baresel writes in to draw attention to a brief report in Wednesday’s paper about a survey on how soon couples resume intimate relations after the birth of a child.

“One in eight new mothers is waiting at least six months before she resumes having sex with her partner... A quarter (23 per cent) of new mothers resumed having sex within six weeks.”

Can’t we compare like with like? Why not one in eight and one in four, or an eighth and a quarter, or all percentages? The inconsistency, as Mr Baresel points out, hinders understanding of a story which is probably of vital interest to many men, as well as women.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Office / Sales Manager

£22000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established and expanding South...

Recruitment Genius: Administrative Assistant / Order Fulfilment

£14000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting opportunity to join a thrivi...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consulta...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Syria's Kurds have little choice but to flee amid the desolution, ruins and danger they face

Patrick Cockburn
A bartender serves two Mojito cocktails  

For the twenty-somethings of today, growing up is hard to do

Simon Kelner
Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones