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

Pharmaceutical Computer System Validation Specialist

£300 - £350 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Pharmaceutical Computer ...

Senior Java Developer - API's / Webservices - XML, XSLT

£400 - £450 Per Day: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is currently ...

Newly Qualified Teachers

£90 - £115 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: We are currently looking fo...

Year 3/4 Teacher

£120 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Birmingham: Job Share Year 3/4 Teacher...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

The racist abuse of Mario Balotelli on Twitter is disgusting, but it can be stopped

Anna Jonsson
A survey by Which? found that some of the UK’s biggest airports, including Heathrow, left travellers the most agitated  

Third-runway momentum is gathering. We need to stop it in its tracks

Mary Dejevsky
A roller-coaster tale from the 'voice of a generation'

Not That Kind of Girl:

A roller-coaster tale from 'voice of a generation' Lena Dunham
London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice. In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence

London is not bedlam or a cradle of vice

In fact it, as much as anywhere, deserves independence
Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with Malcolm McLaren

Vivienne Westwood 'didn’t want' relationship with McLaren

Designer 'felt pressured' into going out with Sex Pistols manager
Jourdan Dunn: Model mother

Model mother

Jordan Dunn became one of the best-paid models in the world
Apple still coolest brand – despite U2 PR disaster

Apple still the coolest brand

Despite PR disaster of free U2 album
Scottish referendum: The Yes vote was the love that dared speak its name, but it was not to be

Despite the result, this is the end of the status quo

Boyd Tonkin on the fall-out from the Scottish referendum
Manolo Blahnik: The high priest of heels talks flats, Englishness, and why he loves Mary Beard

Manolo Blahnik: Flats, Englishness, and Mary Beard

The shoe designer who has been dubbed 'the patron saint of the stiletto'
The Beatles biographer reveals exclusive original manuscripts of some of the best pop songs ever written

Scrambled eggs and LSD

Behind The Beatles' lyrics - thanks to Hunter Davis's original manuscript copies
'Normcore' fashion: Blending in is the new standing out in latest catwalk non-trend

'Normcore': Blending in is the new standing out

Just when fashion was in grave danger of running out of trends, it only went and invented the non-trend. Rebecca Gonsalves investigates
Dance’s new leading ladies fight back: How female vocalists are now writing their own hits

New leading ladies of dance fight back

How female vocalists are now writing their own hits
Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments