Errors and Omissions: We've seen more than our fair share of meaningless phrases

Our legendary Letters editor picks out the waffle in the Independent this week


This is from an exhibition review published on Monday, about Mughal Indian art: “The British amassed a host of visual and literary treasures …. The British Library has more than its fair share.”

So, what would have been the British Library’s fair share, and by how much was it exceeded? Nobody even pretends to know. “More than its fair share” is one of those phrases of which people say “Well, it’s only a manner of speaking”. I prefer a manner of speaking that makes sense.

More verbiage on Monday’s front page: “David Cameron’s support of gay marriage could see the Conservatives ripped down the middle.” The gay marriage issue won’t be a spectator lounging on the sidelines, sipping a cool drink as it “sees” the party ripped down the middle. It will be in there doing the ripping.

Muddle-earth: I haven’t seen the Hobbit movie yet, but I feel I know more about it than some who have. On Wednesday, Grace Dent berated the film-makers for not introducing any sword-swinging female heroes. Those of us who have been following the sad obsessive fan sites know that they have: she is an elf warrior called Tauriel, played by Evangeline Lilly, but I don’t expect to see much of her until the action moves to Mirkwood in film two.

Yesterday, Anthony Quinn’s film review found Gollum about the only thing to like in film one and opined: “How much he figures in the second and third instalments will surely have a determining influence on the success of the whole.” Perhaps Quinn knows more than can be gleaned from reading the book, in which Gollum makes just the one appearance.

Homophone horror: This is from a news report published on Wednesday: “A month ago Lieutenant Kutaiba Hassan led his squad of soldiers into an apartment bloc in south Damascus.” That should be “block”.

We have here an example of a word that has arrived from French twice, once in the Middle Ages and again later. The two versions have different meanings and spellings. (A similar example is offered by “roll” and “role”.)

“Block”, meaning a solid mass of stuff (in this case a block of flats), goes way back to Middle English. “Bloc”, meaning a political combination, dates from the early 20th century, according to the Shorter Oxford.

Number crunching: Sorry, but I’m not giving up. I shall continue to repeat that a verb and its subject need to agree as to number.

The latest outrage comes from a picture caption published last Saturday: “Zara’s fast turnaround of trend-following clothes have secured a lucrative mature market.” That should be “has”.

“Turnaround have” is obviously wrong, but an interposed noun different in number – in this case “clothes” – is liable to confuse people who weren’t taught grammar at school.

React Now

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

Sustainability Manager

Competitive: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Scheme Manager (BREEAM)...

Graduate Sustainability Professional

Flexible, depending on experience: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: T...

Programme Director - Conduct Risk - London

£850 - £950 per day: Orgtel: Programme Director - Conduct Risk - Banking - £85...

Project Coordinator/Order Entry, SC Clear

£100 - £110 per day: Orgtel: Project Coordinator/Order Entry Hampshire

Day In a Page

Read Next
Former N-Dubz singer Tulisa Contostavlos gives a statement outside Southwark Crown Court after her trial  

It would be wrong to compare brave Tulisa’s ordeal with phone hacking. It’s much worse than that

Matthew Norman
The Big Society Network was assessed as  

What became of Cameron's Big Society Network?

Oliver Wright
Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn