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 It is half a century since spin dryers superseded that Victorian contraption of hand-cranked rollers.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

Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher

Negotiable: Tradewind Recruitment: PMLD Teacher A specialist primary school i...

Recruitment Genius: Online Media Sales Trainee

£15000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Now our rapidly expanding and A...

Recruitment Genius: Public House Manager / Management Couples

£15000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about great ...

Recruitment Genius: Production Planner

£20000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This fast growing reinforcing s...

Day In a Page

 

Political satire is funny, but it also causes cynicism and apathy

Yasmin Alibhai Brown
The super-rich now live in their own Elysium - they breathe better air, and eat better food, when they're not making beans on toast for their kids

The super-rich now live in their own Elysium

They breathe better air, eat better food, take better medicine
A generation of dropouts failed by colleges

Dropout generation failed by colleges

£800m a year wasted on students who quit courses before they graduate
Entering civilian life 'can be like going into the jungle' for returning soldiers

Homeless Veterans appeal

Entering civilian life can be like going into the jungle
Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Sam Taylor-Johnson: Woman on top

Fifty Shades of Grey director on bringing the hit to the screen
Shazam! Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

Shazam: Story of the $1bn 'what's that song?' app

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

As in 1942, Germany must show restraint over Greece

Mussolini tried to warn his ally of the danger of bringing the country to its knees. So should we, says Patrick Cockburn
Britain's widening poverty gap should be causing outrage at the start of the election campaign

The short stroll that should be our walk of shame

Courting the global elite has failed to benefit Britain, as the vast disparity in wealth on display in the capital shows
Homeless Veterans appeal: The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty

Homeless Veterans appeal

The rise of the working poor: when having a job cannot prevent poverty
Prince Charles the saviour of the nation? A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king

Prince Charles the saviour of the nation?

A new book highlights concerns about how political he will be when he eventually becomes king
How books can defeat Isis: Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad

How books can defeat Isis

Patrick Cockburn was able to update his agenda-setting 'The Rise of Islamic State' while under attack in Baghdad
Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

Judith Hackitt: The myths of elf 'n' safety

She may be in charge of minimising our risks of injury, but the chair of the Health and Safety Executive still wants children to be able to hurt themselves
The open loathing between Barack Obama and Benjamin Netanyahu just got worse

The open loathing between Obama and Netanyahu just got worse

The Israeli PM's relationship with the Obama has always been chilly, but going over the President's head on Iran will do him no favours, says Rupert Cornwell
French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

French chefs get 'le huff' as nation slips down global cuisine rankings

Fury at British best restaurants survey sees French magazine produce a rival list
Star choreographer Matthew Bourne gives young carers a chance to perform at Sadler's Wells

Young carers to make dance debut

What happened when superstar choreographer Matthew Bourne encouraged 27 teenage carers to think about themselves for once?
Design Council's 70th anniversary: Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch

Design Council's 70th anniversary

Four of the most intriguing prototypes from Ones to Watch