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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn