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

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

Recruitment Genius: Photographer / Floorplanner / Domestic Energy Assessor

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Photographer/ Floor planner /...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Surrey - £40,000

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - Guildford/Craw...

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Assistant

£13500 - £15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Customer Service Assistant is...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £35,000

£16000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An ambitious and motivated Sale...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

General Election 2015: Ed Miliband hasn’t ‘suddenly’ become a robust leader. He always was

Steve Richards
 

Costa Rica’s wildlife makes me mourn our paradise lost

Michael McCarthy
Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

Not even the 'putrid throat' could stop the Ross Poldark swoon-fest'

How a costume drama became a Sunday night staple
Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers as he pushes Tories on housing

Miliband promises no stamp duty for first-time buyers

Labour leader pushes Tories on housing
Aviation history is littered with grand failures - from the the Bristol Brabazon to Concorde - but what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?

Aviation history is littered with grand failures

But what went wrong with the SuperJumbo?
Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of Soviet-style 'iron curtains' right across Europe

Fortress Europe?

Fear of Putin, Islamists and immigration is giving rise to a new generation of 'iron curtains'
Never mind what you're wearing, it's what you're reclining on

Never mind what you're wearing

It's what you're reclining on that matters
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence