Errors and Omissions: This awkward construction won’t bring music to the ears

Our chief political commentator takes to task this week's Independent coverage

Share

Ouch. Our report on Monday about AKB48, the Japanese pop group, said that “among the Guinness world records they hold is one for the most number of appearances in different television commercials in a single day”. It is 90, apparently, but “the most number” is an unspeakable construction. “The most appearances” would have done fine. The report also used capital letters for emphasis (“Jump into your racing car; SUGAR RUSH SUGAR RUSH, HEY!”), when our style is italics, and, although it explained that the 48 in the band’s name represented the number of its original members, it didn’t say what the AKB was. Perhaps we expected readers to guess that it stands for Akihabara, the district of Tokyo in which we explained that the band was born.

It is an arbitrary convention that the word is spelt “discrete” when it means separate and “discreet” when it means prudent and unobtrusive. It was originally the same word, coming from the same Latin root, meaning the ability to discern or discriminate between couth and uncouth. The different spelling makes no sense, but it is one of those things that is worth getting right because some readers will notice and think less of us if we get it wrong. This we did on Wednesday, when we described a luxury hotel chain, owned by Vladislav Doronin, the subject of the story, as “offering discrete hideaways to billionaires and celebrities”.

In an editorial yesterday, we described Australia’s repeal of its carbon tax as “a retrograde step”. I would prefer the simpler “backward”, not least because retrograde comes from Latin, retro, backward and gradus, step.

The heatwave was bound to cause an outbreak of conditionitis, and The Independent was not immune. Yesterday we reported that the TUC wanted bosses to send workers home “in hot conditions”. Meaning, “when it is hot”.

Guy Keleny has complained about this form of journalese recently, but it is hard to eradicate. In yesterday’s report of Nick Hancock’s record-breaking 43-day stay in a plastic box on Rockall, we described its location as 260 miles west of “Scotland’s Outer Hebrides”. The geographical possessive is not a form found in normal speech, but Japan’s Mount Fuji and New York’s Times Square are familiar places in what used to be London’s Fleet Street.

The internet is often blamed for propagating invented quotations, usually attributed to Lincoln or Voltaire, but it is a powerful engine for chasing misattributed words of wisdom. My enjoyment of our Big Read yesterday on the expunging of the Devil from the Church of England’s christening service was interrupted by the suspicion that Voltaire did not actually say, when asked on his deathbed to renounce Satan: “This is no time to be making enemies.” A check confirmed that there is no evidence he said it – which is a shame, really.

React Now

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

Java Developer

£45000 - £60000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: JAVA DEVELO...

HR Business Partner (Maternity Cover 12 Months)

£30000 - £34000 Per Annum 25 days holiday, Private healthcare: Clearwater Peop...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Developer

£475 - £550 per day: Progressive Recruitment: MDAX / Dynamics AX / Microsoft D...

.Net/ C# Developer/ Analyst Programmer - Eciting new Role

£45000 - £50000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: .NET/ C# .Pr...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Fist bumps will never replace the handshake - we're just not cool enough

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
The children were playing in the street with toy guns. The air strikes were tragically real

The air strikes were tragically real

The children were playing in the street with toy guns
Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite – The British, as others see us

Britain as others see us

Boozy, ignorant, intolerant, but very polite
Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them altogether

Countries that don’t survey their tigers risk losing them

Jonathon Porritt sounds the alarm
How did our legends really begin?

How did our legends really begin?

Applying the theory of evolution to the world's many mythologies
Watch out: Lambrusco is back on the menu

Lambrusco is back on the menu

Naff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

A new Russian revolution

Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

Standing my ground

If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
The man who dared to go on holiday

The man who dared to go on holiday

New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

The Guest List 2014

Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

Jokes on Hollywood

With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on