Errors and Omissions: Typhoons and tsunamis – too easy to confuse the two

Our Letters editor reviews the slips in this week's Independent coverage

Share

In her Monday column, Yasmin Alibhai-Brown reported that the recent floods had shocked her into taking climate change more seriously. Good for her, but halfway through the piece a common error slipped in.

“Just last November, Typhoon Haiyan ravaged the Philippines… The 2004 tsunami was different because several Westerners were tragically swept away. Questions were asked if such catastrophes were getting more frequent and were partly man-made.”

Typhoons in the Philippines and floods in Britain may well be linked to climate change, but Alibhai-Brown is not the first writer on this subject to forget that tsunamis are caused by the sudden displacement of water by, for instance, a volcanic eruption or an earthquake beneath the sea bed. They have nothing to do with the weather.

Slips like this ought not to matter, but they do, because they help climate-change deniers and contrarians to give the answer they want to the question they love to ask: can we trust the people who tell us that human-induced climate change is happening?

That is the wrong question. The right question is this: does the science look robust enough, and are the likely results of ignoring it dire enough, to merit taking serious action now? I congratulate Alibhai-Brown on realising that the answer is yes.

--------------

This is from an article, published on Wednesday, about traditional Indian performers. “Ishamuddin Khan [is] one of a handful of people in the world to have carried out a convincing display of the Indian rope trick – a legendary Indian stunt, the providence of which appears to have been authenticated, falsely, by an 1890 report in the Chicago Tribune.”

Sebastian Robinson wrote in from Glasgow to point out that “providence” is wrong here. It means foresight, in particular a divine plan. He argues, convincingly, that what we have here is probably an amalgam of “provenance” – the ownership history of a work of art – and “evidence”. The whole mess could easily have been cleared up by simply leaving out the words “the providence of”.

--------------

Some people seem to think that anything in the past needs to be adorned with the word “former”. Thus, in a political story last Saturday, we were told that the Wythenshawe and Sale East by-election had been “caused by the death of the former Labour MP Paul Goggins”.

No, the death of a former MP would not trigger a by-election. When Mr Goggins died he was still the MP, and since the reader has just been told that he is dead, nobody needs the word “former” to make clear that he is not the MP now.

--------------

In his Monday column, Matthew Norman told how he had seen a young mother cycling along a London street with her tiny daughter in a baby seat. “Amo, amas, amat,” she was trilling. “Come on darling, say it with me.” The headline: “Latin declension for pillion tots.”

Sorry, nearly a fine headline, but declension is for nouns and adjectives. “Amo, amas, amat” is the conjugation of a verb.

React Now

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

Austen Lloyd: Private Client Solicitor - Oxford

Excellent Salary : Austen Lloyd: OXFORD - REGIONAL FIRM - An excellent opportu...

Austen Lloyd: Clinical Negligence Associate / Partner - Bristol

Super Package: Austen Lloyd: BRISTOL - SENIOR CLINICAL NEGLIGENCE - An outstan...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Consultant - Solar Energy - OTE £50,000

£15000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Fantastic opportunities are ava...

Recruitment Genius: Compute Engineer

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Compute Engineer is required to join a globa...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Syrian refugee 'Nora' with her two month-old daughter. She was one of the first Syrians to come to the UK when the Government agreed to resettle 100 people from the country  

Open letter to David Cameron on Syrian refugees: 'Several hundred people' isn't good enough

Amjad Bashir said Ukip had become a 'party of ruthless self-interest'  

Could Ukip turncoat Amjad Bashir be the Churchill of his day?

Matthew Norman
Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

What the six wise men told Tony Blair

Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

25 years of The Independent on Sunday

The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

Homeless Veterans appeal

As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

Smash hit go under the hammer

It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

The geeks who rocked the world

A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

Growing mussels

Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project
Diana Krall: The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai

Diana Krall interview

The jazz singer on being friends with Elton John, outer space and skiing in Dubai
Pinstriped for action: A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter

Pinstriped for action

A glimpse of what the very rich man will be wearing this winter
Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: 'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'

Russell T Davies & Ben Cook: How we met

'Our friendship flourished online. You can share some very revelatory moments at four in the morning…'
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef serves up his favourite Japanese dishes

Bill Granger's Japanese recipes

Stock up on mirin, soy and miso and you have the makings of everyday Japanese cuisine
Michael Calvin: How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us

Michael Calvin's Last Word

How we need more Eric Cantonas to knock some sense into us