Errors and Omissions: Toronto, Newfoundland – they’re quite close, right?

Our Letters editor and chief pedant casts his eye over this week's Independent

 

Share

Distances in North America baffle the European mind. Last Saturday we carried a story, written in London, about the disposal problem posed by the beaching of three dead blue whales on the coast of Newfoundland. It quoted what the town clerk of Trout River told “the local newspaper, the Toronto Star”.

Newfoundland is more than 1,000 miles from Toronto, so that’s rather like saying that the local paper in Inverness is Le Monde.

The local daily newspaper in St John’s, Newfoundland, incidentally, is called The Telegram. Its website carries a trenchant opinion piece denouncing the feeble failure of the Newfoundland and Labrador provincial government to prevent the skeletons of two of the beached whales being removed to a museum in far-away Toronto.

————————-

Last Monday, a comment piece dealt with infant mortality rates: “But prominent among the causes given by the researchers were deprivation, welfare cuts, health inequalities, low birth weight and parents who smoke (the last obviously not the fault of the state). Nor is parental neglect or cruelty.”

At this point, the reader feels “Oops! Something wrong” and goes back to see what it is. I don't know whether any usage gurus mention this point; Fowler’s Modern English Usage doesn’t seem to. But it should always be possible to remove any material in parenthesis without reducing the surrounding passage to gibberish.

In the piece above, “nor is parental neglect or cruelty” makes no sense without “the last obviously not the fault of the state”. Both bits are equally important to the coherence of the passage, so it is clumsy to put one of them in brackets. Better to have written: “… parents who smoke. The last is obviously not the fault of the state, and nor is neglect or cruelty.”

————————-

“A long-awaited Blackadder reunion floundered after a senior broadcasting executive said there should be more ‘baking’ in the show, the comedy’s producer has said.” Anthony Ingleton draws my attention to that sentence from a news story published last Saturday. To flounder is to tumble and thrash about as if trapped in a mire. The writer almost certainly meant “foundered” – fell down, or filled and sank like a ship overcome by heavy seas.

————————-

A football report published on Monday said: “The idea that Felix Magath might embrace life in the English Championship is one that slightly stretches credibility.”

No, credibility is the quality of being believable. The readiness to believe is credulity. So an unlikely idea either lacks credibility of stretches credulity. Don’t mix the two.

————————-

Last Saturday’s profile said of Elizabeth Warren: “She looks the part, with her conservative suits, her timeless blonde bob…” “Blond” is a French word for the colour of yellow hair. Its feminine form is “blonde”, which has become a commonly used word in English, meaning a woman or girl with yellow hair. But hair is not feminine, either in French or English, so a blonde’s hair is blond.

React Now

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

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Maths Teacher

£90 - £160 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Science Teacher (mater...

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for an ...

Maths Teacher

£22000 - £37000 per annum: Randstad Education Leeds: A West Yorkshire School i...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

i Editor's Letter: The campaigning is over. So now we wait...

Oliver Duff Oliver Duff
In this handout provided by NASA from the the Earth-orbiting International Space Station, weather system Arthur travels up the east coast of the United States in the Atlantic Ocean near Florida in space. The robotic arm of the Space Station Remote Manipulator System or Canadarm2 is seen at upper right. According to reports, Arthur has begun moving steadily northward at around 5 kt. and the tropical storm is expected to strike the North Carolina Outer Banks  

Thanks to government investment, commercial space travel is becoming a reality

Richard Branson
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
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week