Errors and Omissions: We were having a blond moment – maybe two

Our chief political commentator fixes his eye on this week's Independent coverage

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 We ran a headline the other day which read, “The platinum-blond entertainer puts the fun back into fashion”, which was wrong, while the text said, “Although maybe it would turn your hair platinum blonde in the process”, which was also wrong.

The headline referred to a female person, Donatella Versace, whose adjectival blonde takes the feminine form, with the “e”. The text refers to “your hair”, which could be a male or a female person’s, but the adjective in this case describes the hair, not the person, and hair in French is cheveux, masculine. Actually it is masculine plural, so in French it would be cheveux blonds. In English “blond” will do, but not “blonde”. We often get this wrong, and did so in a report last Saturday (“He decided my hair colour would be brown not blonde”), and in another on Thursday (“Tests were also being carried out on a blonde hair found in Ms Witheridge’s hand”).

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On Saturday we said James Ellroy “is still trying to expand the parameters of the crime novel”, and in an article about John Peel that “Pulp, The Wedding Present and Mogwai didn’t set out to conquer the charts or redefine the parameters of rock music”. My campaign to eradicate “parameters”, which reviewers like because it is similar to “perimeters”, goes on.

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Our TV listings on Monday said: “It’s a general rule of Hollywood that the greater a comedy’s recourse to expensive special effects, the less funny it will be. And the 1984 mega-hit Ghostbusters is the exception that proves it.” This is one of my favourite clichés. “The exception that proves the rule” is part of an old legal adage, which means that if you say “No parking on Saturdays” it is reasonable to assume that Saturdays are the exception and that parking is permitted on other days. It is quite meaningless to apply it to Ghostbusters, which, if anything, disproves the “general rule of Hollywood”.

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The curse of the needless conversion afflicted our report on Tuesday of the “texting lane” in Chongqing for pedestrians addicted to their mobile phones. We said it had been marked out on “a 50m (165ft) stretch of pavement”. Most people know how long a metre is, which, given that this was an approximate measurement anyway, means that no elaboration was needed.

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I don’t know if this was Donald Macintyre, reporting for us from Scotland, or the Yes campaign, but we said on Thursday that supporters of Alex Salmond were carrying banners saying: “End Tory Rule For Ever.” It is slightly embarrassing to admit it, but I do like “for ever” as two words.

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The journalese “move” appeared in our report from America on Thursday: “Barack Obama moved last night to lay to rest all notion of the US once again sending ground forces to Iraq.” He gave a speech. Judging by the picture, he stood behind a lectern while doing so. What’s wrong with: “Barack Obama sought to lay to rest the notion…”?

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