Errors and Omissions: Just deserts or just desserts? The proof is in the pudding

Our letters editor reviews a selection of the tastiest slips from this week's Independent

Share

A news story published on Tuesday about the Monty Python court case quoted one of the counsel as follows: “These are not unpleasant shifty people trying to do people out of their just desserts.”

We are dealing here with three nouns. Two of the three are pronounced the same; two are spelt the same, but not the same two.

Dessert (pronounced with the stress on the second syllable): the last course of a meal. Desert (pronounced the same as the above): what you deserve. Encountered most often in the hackneyed phrase “just deserts”. Desert (stress on the first syllable): an arid region where nothing much will grow.

The whole thing is a mess, but professional writers ought to get it right. In the passage above, the correct spelling is “desert”.

That’s lucky

Here is a picture caption published on Tuesday: “An ash cloud rises from the erupting Plosky Tolbachik volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula yesterday. Fortunately, the 3,085m-high volcano, which last erupted in 1975, does not pose a risk to populated areas.”

That “fortunately” strikes a weird note. Full marks to the Almighty for siting the volcano well away from populated areas; He is clearly aware of health and safety. Obviously, the volcano wasn’t kept away from people’s homes, but the homes from the volcano, and that won’t be down to good fortune.

Cliché of the week

 “His decision will pave the way for a significant increase in shale gas exploration” – news report last Saturday. Shale gas exploration, of course, involves the notorious “fracking” process to release the gas. How would you pave the way for the shattering of rock? The imagination fails to form a picture of that.

Note also a common bit of verbiage. The word “significant” should nearly always be struck out. Everything worth reporting is significant. Unless you are actually talking about statistics, “significant” means nothing; it merely creates an impression that something big is going on, without troubling to specify what or how. An honest translation of “significant” would be: “Jolly important, I should think; wouldn’t you agree?”

Who she?

A picture caption on the Style page on Monday referred to somebody called “Kate Middleton”. I think this is a conspiracy. Republicans who wish to undermine the monarchy refuse to use the titles that A-list celebrity royal ladies have acquired by marriage. This has the effect of belittling the Royal Family.

They did it with Diana, Princess of Wales, insisting on calling her “Princess Diana”, as if she were a princess in her own right – thus punishing her husband for his failure to appreciate her overwhelming wonderfulness. Now they have started on the Duchess of Cambridge, calling her “Kate Middleton”, as if her marriage had made no difference to her status at all.

If bylined writers wish to indulge in this silliness, no one can stop them, but when the newspaper speaks with its own voice, as in news stories and picture captions, we should identify the Duchess properly.

React Now

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Labour's Jeremy Corbyn arrives to take part in a Labour party leadership final debate, at the Sage in Gateshead, England, Thursday, Sept. 3  

Jeremy Corbyn is here to stay and the Labour Party is never going to look the same again

Andrew Grice
Serena Williams  

As Stella Creasy and Serena Williams know, a woman's achievements are still judged on appearance

Holly Baxter
The long walk west: they fled war in Syria, only to get held up in Hungary – now hundreds of refugees have set off on foot for Austria

They fled war in Syria...

...only to get stuck and sidetracked in Hungary
From The Prisoner to Mad Men, elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series

Title sequences: From The Prisoner to Mad Men

Elaborate title sequences are one of the keys to a great TV series. But why does the art form have such a chequered history?
Giorgio Armani Beauty's fabric-inspired foundations: Get back to basics this autumn

Giorgio Armani Beauty's foundations

Sumptuous fabrics meet luscious cosmetics for this elegant look
From stowaways to Operation Stack: Life in a transcontinental lorry cab

Life from the inside of a trucker's cab

From stowaways to Operation Stack, it's a challenging time to be a trucker heading to and from the Continent
Kelis interview: The songwriter and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell and crying over potatoes

Kelis interview

The singer and sauce-maker on cooking for Pharrell
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