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


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

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

Recruitment Genius: Senior Digital Marketing Consultant

£28000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Senior Digital Marketing Cons...

Recruitment Genius: Assistant Stores Keeper

£16640 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Assistant Stores Keeper is r...

Recruitment Genius: Claims Administrator

£16000 - £18500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an excellent opportunit...

Recruitment Genius: Software Developer - C# / ASP.NET / SQL

£17000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Developer required to join a bu...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Prince William and his wife Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge show their newly-born daughter, their second child, to the media outside the Lindo Wing at St Mary's Hospital in central London, on 2 May 2015.  

The Only Way is Ethics: The birth of a royal baby will not top the news for long

Will Gore
Mosul falls: Talk of Iraq retaking the town, held by IS since June, is unconvincing  

Isis on the run? The US portrayal is very far from the truth

Patrick Cockburn
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Russell Brand's interview with Ed Miliband has got everyone talking about The Trews

Everyone is talking about The Trews

Russell Brand's 'true news' videos attract millions of viewers. But today's 'Milibrand' interview introduced his resolutely amateurish style to a whole new crowd
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before
'Queer saint' Peter Watson left his mark on British culture by bankrolling artworld giants

'Queer saint' who bankrolled artworld giants

British culture owes a huge debt to Peter Watson, says Michael Prodger
Pushkin Prizes: Unusual exchange programme aims to bring countries together through culture

Pushkin Prizes brings countries together

Ten Scottish schoolchildren and their Russian peers attended a creative writing workshop in the Highlands this week
14 best kids' hoodies

14 best kids' hoodies

Don't get caught out by that wind on the beach. Zip them up in a lightweight top to see them through summer to autumn
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The acceptable face of the Emirates

The acceptable face of the Emirates

Has Abu Dhabi found a way to blend petrodollars with principles, asks Robert Fisk