Errors and Omissions: Why admit something you are perfectly happy to say?

In this week's dose of pedantry: do "jealousy" and "envious" have the same meaning? And what's the difference between "regularly" and "frequently"?


Rio Ferdinand risked “enflaming the controversy surrounding his non-appearance for England”, we said on Saturday.

That should have been “inflaming”, and Laurie Wedd wrote to point out that the same report said that Roy Hodgson “admitted on Thursday that he was ‘not interested’ in how Ferdinand planned to spend the international break”. It was a good example of how writers, keen to avoid using “said” repeatedly, end up with unintended connotations. If Hodgson had merely “said” that he was “not interested” in Ferdinand’s holiday arrangements, the implication would have been quite different, and probably a more accurate reflection of what the England manager actually meant.

Encore: “Déjà vu” means the feeling that you have seen something before when you haven’t. It is always misused, and it always, always comes with the words “a sense of” bolted and rusted to it. This was the opening sentence of a feature on Saturday: “For those present at the employment tribunal involving Lord Sugar and his former apprentice, Stella English, there was an unnerving sense of déjà vu.” Meaning that we had seen that kind of “wild disagreement, accusation and counter accusation” on the programme. All this has happened before, and it will all happen again (as it says at the start of Peter Pan).

Oft confused: We reported on Wednesday the latest adventures of @toryeducation, the mysterious Twitter account that seems to operate out of Michael Gove’s private office, although he denies it. We said that it is “regularly used to praise Government education policy and to lambast critics of Mr Gove”. We meant “frequently”, as the tweeting is not at set intervals.

Love of money: Another distinction worth preserving is that between jealous and envious. Reporting on Wednesday about the teenager who made £20m by selling a company that wrote news summaries for mobile phones, we suggested other ways of becoming rich so that “you can make your friends jealous”. If they want what you have, they are envious. If they are fearful that you might take what they have, they are jealous.

In the detail: In describing on Thursday Giovanni di Stefano, the fraudster who pretended to be a lawyer, as the “Devil’s Advocate”, we were merely repeating a common nickname. He took on apparently unwinnable cases, often for unpopular clients, so it seemed a clever twist on the usual meaning, referring to someone adopting a position in debate for the sake of testing an argument. But it is worth knowing that the Devil’s Advocate was a real post at the Vatican, a canon lawyer formally known as the Promoter of the Faith, which was abolished only in 1983. His job was to argue against a candidate for sainthood, a case which would be made by another lawyer known as the Promoter of the Cause. The Devil’s Advocate, therefore, argued the case against the person in the dock.

Guy Keleny is away

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