Errors and Omissions: Show some cajones and get rid of the asterisks

Plus: why one should always try to leave 10 minutes free at 3.35 on Tuesday afternoons for bringing out the best of the Dutch masters

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The Independent Online

I thought I had seen it all. Surely there were no further depths to be plumbed by “when it comes to”. Then I saw this headline, in last Saturday’s Radar magazine: “Grey matters when it comes to bringing out the best of the Dutch masters.”

So, when does it come to bringing out the best of the Dutch masters? My life is very busy, but I always try to leave 10 minutes free at 3.35 on Tuesday afternoons for bringing out the best of the Dutch masters.

Naughty word: There are varying views about newspapers and bad language. What words, if any, should we represent by asterisks? The Independent’s policy is not to force our readers to behold the notorious words beginning f– and c–, but to be reasonably relaxed about lesser obscenities and swear words.

A policy we failed to adhere to last Saturday when reporting the forthright views on homosexuality of the new President of Paraguay, Horacio Cartes: “Earlier in the month he said he would ‘shoot himself in the b*****ks’ if he were to discover a son who wanted to marry another man.”

This is weird, because presumably Mr Cartes was speaking Spanish. I suppose the actual word he used may have been “cojones”.  The writer, who could have spared the reader’s feelings by writing “testicles”, has instead made the decision (quite rightly in my view) to reflect the President’s tone by using a vulgar English word – only to instantly asterisk it out again.

Bollocks to that, say I.

County town: This is from a news story published on Monday: “A 40-year-old woman was held by detectives in Denbigh, Denbighshire, as part of the probe into a series of incidents where objects were ignited in the town, North Wales Police said.”

What lies behind “Denbigh, Denbighshire”? Hard to say. Was it just robotic adherence to the habit of putting in the name of the county? Or was it an attack of panic at the thought that many readers would not know where Denbigh was? I dare say they don’t, but the problem is not helped by adding “Denbighshire”, and it is in any case solved a few words later by the reference to North Wales Police.

Oh, and take the journalese “probe” out  and shoot it. “Investigation” may be a bit longer, but it is English as used by human beings.

Present and correct: Thursday’s Business Outlook column said government attempts  to get banks to lend to business were like flogging a dead horse: “Let’s recognise that  the horse we are presently trying to ride is deceased.”

The use of “presently” to mean “now” is not absolutely wrong, and is certainly not new  (the OED dates it to 1485). But it is more elegant to let “presently” indicate a time in the immediate future. In the sentence above, use a verb in the present perfect progressive: “Let’s recognise that the horse we have been trying to ride is deceased”.