Errors and Omissions: Medea may be a sorceress and a murderer, but she's no femme fatale

Our legendary pedant on the dead metaphors yet to be airbrushed from history, what it is that makes a femme fatale, and the proper form of cricketing cliché.

Share
Related Topics

On Tuesday we reported on the Saudi edition of the Ikea catalogue, with all women removed from the pictures. A hilarious illustration showed two versions of the same photograph. In the original a couple and their two children enjoy the amenities of an Ikea bathroom. In the Saudi edition there is only a man and two children, the young mother having disappeared.

The headline said: “Ikea airbrushes women from its Saudi catalogue.” It is years since anybody used an airbrush – a kind of spray gun – for such a purpose. It was modern digital technology that spared Saudi readers the unsettling sight of a human female dressed in nothing but stout cotton pyjamas.

But things are still “airbrushed” out of history, as well as out of catalogues, and probably will be for a very long time. After all, how long is it since anybody battened down a hatch or changed horses in mid-stream?

Turning to a sports page on the same day, you would have found this: “It is clear that he loves and respects golf… and understands that to truly appreciate its gifts golfers must pass through the ringer.”

“Ringer” should be “wringer”, but even after that correction, we are left wondering how many readers know what a wringer is. It is half a century since spin dryers superseded that Victorian contraption of hand-cranked rollers. But it still does service as a metaphor for a harrowing experience.

Fatal mistake

An art review published on Wednesday referred to “Medea, one of the many femme fatales to occupy the imagination of the late-Victorian era”. Two things to observe here. As usual, our French is not comme il faut. The plural of “femme fatale” is “femmes fatales”. And does Medea really qualify as a femme fatale anyway – that is to say, a seductive woman whose irresistible charms lead men into trouble?

Her story is this. The hero Jason turns up in her father’s kingdom intent on stealing the Golden Fleece. She falls in love with him and uses her magical powers to help him, on condition that he takes her home with him and marries her. This he does, but later deserts her for another woman. She murders their children.

There are plenty of femmes fatales in ancient stories – Cleopatra, Salome, Delilah. But Medea? She is undoubtedly a sorceress and a murderer, but in her relations with men she is more sinned against than sinning.

No ball!

“It would be naive to expect the Labour leadership to do this off its own back,” wrote Owen Jones in his Monday column. The expression is “off its own bat”. It is an old cricket term, referring to runs made by hitting the ball, as opposed to extras.

A cliché can become so familiar that people forget what it means and just mouth something that sounds like it.

Just an act

“She’s the drug-addled, foul-mouthed student who steals the show in Channel 4’s Fresh Meat, but Zawe Ashton is a lot more nuanced than her character,” said the introductory blurb to an interview in last Saturday’s Magazine.

What, you mean an actor isn’t really like the character she plays? She’s only pretending? Who would have thought it?

React Now

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

Year 2 Teacher - Maternity cover

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Luton: Year 2 maternity cover, startin...

KS1 Teacher

£95 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Key Stage 1 teacher require...

Upper KS2 Teacher

£120 - £150 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Upper Key Stage 2 teacher ...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day + ?110 - 130: Randstad Education Reading: English Teacher ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Young Syrian refugees gather around a small fire at the Minieh camp in Lebanon  

Cameron and Obama may want to ‘destroy’ Isis, but what will they do about the growing number of refugees fleeing Iraq and Syria?

Kate Allen
“You're running away!” Nick said to me the other night as I tried to leave the hospital  

In Sickness and in Health: ‘There’s nothing I want more than to have you at home, but you’re not well’

Rebecca Armstrong
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments