Picture editors are often reduced to desperate straits when trying to illustrate financial stories, but rarely as desperate as on a personal finance page last Saturday.
The article was about the options for investors hoping to protect their wealth during a stock-market fall. One of the ideas was to put money into property trusts.
Protection… buildings… A-ha! Inspiration struck the picture editor, and we ended up with a big picture of a medieval castle, sitting in the middle of a wide moat. Which castle? The caption was not informative. Is the castle for sale? Is it owned by a property trust? No reason to think so. It was just a castle, suggestive of castle-ishness. It had, in other words, no factual connection with the article at all. And it took up half a page.
It makes you wonder whether we shouldn’t take a deep breath, decide to treat the reader as a rational being, and publish such an article with no illustration. We would thus free the space for – dare I say it? – another 600-word article.
What, no picture on the page at all? Aesthetes might be horrified, but many readers (the clue is in the name – “readers”, not “viewers”) might find it a refreshing change.
Beware of things you think you know. It doesn’t occur to you to check them. We’ve all done it. On Monday, we published a leading article about the Great War centenary: “The reputation of the war probably reached its nadir in the 1960s, around the time of the late Alan Clark’s Lions Led by Donkeys.”
Clark’s book takes its title from a reported remark by a German general that British soldiers were lions led by donkeys, but the book itself is called just The Donkeys.
This is from a theatre review published on Wednesday: “Raw sexual energy, and society’s need to curb its wilder excrescences, are themes which bubble constantly just below the surface in the myth of the vampire.”
It looks as if the writer was trying to avoid the cliché “wilder excesses” by substituting “excrescences”, and has fallen instead into a mixed metaphor. An excrescence is an outgrowth, usually of a morbid or disfiguring nature. You cannot restrain that with a curb, which is a chain passing under a horse’s lower jaw and attached to the arms of the bit.
This is from a story about the Canebière, the principal thoroughfare of Marseille, published on Tuesday: “Named from the Latin word for cannabis, la Canebière was originally part of the hemp fields around the old port.”
Eh? The Latin word for cannabis is cannabis. What is going on? The next sentence brings both enlightenment and further puzzlement: “The Provençal word for hemp is canebe.”
Now we are getting somewhere; that is obviously the word from which the name “Canebière” is derived. Why not say so in the first place, instead of getting snarled up in jumbled Latin?