Errors and Omissions: If I want to wait for the return of the Ottoman Empire, I can

Our Letters Editor reviews the slips in this week's paper

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This from a Comment piece published on Wednesday: “Anyone who drives around the occupied territories realises at once (unless they are politically blind) that there is as much chance of building a state in the West Bank – whose map of colonies and non-colonised districts looks like the smashed windscreen of a car – as there is of waiting for the return of the Ottoman Empire.”

 Long sentences expose you to many dangers. In this case, the writer has stumbled into suggesting that you can have a greater or lesser chance of waiting for something. That is not true. Anyone can decide to wait for the return of the Ottoman Empire or anything else. That should be “… there is as much chance … as there is of the Ottoman Empire returning.”

Journalese:  “Jennifer Aniston … at the Odeon West End cinema in the capital’s Leicester Square,” burbled a picture caption on Thursday. Anybody outside the news media who wrote “the capital’s Leicester Square” would be thought insane.

Cliché of the week (1): Last Saturday we published an article on the archaeological finds made during the digging of tunnels for Crossrail beneath London. The headline: “How Crossrail dug up a London treasure trove”. No. Treasure trove is valuable goods such as gold or silver that a court decides someone once hid with the intention of coming back to retrieve them. In English law treasure trove belongs to the Crown, but its value is usually given to the finder.

The London finds range from Roman horseshoes to Victorian stoneware jars. They are not a treasure trove. People use the term loosely of any abundant find of anything – “It was an absolute treasure trove.” But it looks brainless to speak like that in the context of archaeology.

Cliché of the week (2): “When it comes to heartache they say time is a great healer.” So began a diary item from the Edinburgh Festival last Saturday. When does it come to heartache? “When it comes to …” makes sense when referring to a scheduled event  (“When it comes to making Sunday lunch …”) or a stage of a process (“When it comes to machining the flanges …”). But mostly it is just a verbal extrusion used to introduce a new topic. It sounds less clunking than “Turning now to the matter of …” but it means the same thing. Think of something better.

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