Errors and Omissions: You can’t really expect political correctness in the Wild West

The Independent's letters editor casts his eye over this week's coverage

Share

On Wednesday, we published a preview of the films to be released this summer. They included The Lone Ranger, a movie version of the western that delighted radio and TV audiences from the 1930s to the 1950s. Readers were informed that “Armie Hammer takes the lead role, with Johnny Depp as his Native American companion, Tonto”.

“Native American companion”? Difficult to tell whether this was intended ironically or not. In any case, sorry, but no. Tonto was the Lone Ranger’s Indian sidekick. “Companion” makes you think about funny old Victorian ladies sharing a cottage in the country. And you don’t have to be a Clarksonesque golf club bore to snort that “Native American” is, in this context, an example of political correctness run mad. This is, after all, supposed to be 19th-century Texas.

“Native American” is nonsense anyway. A native American, in the simple meaning of the words, is a person born in America, whether or not a member of one of the indigenous peoples who have been there since before the Europeans came. The latter meaning is better expressed by the term “First Nations” – for all its agonisingly earnest Canadian decency.

Too much information: A news story published on Monday began thus: “Dog mess: to most of the population it is a biohazard about as welcome and useful as syphilis. Even those required to collect it approach it with a plastic bag and a grimace. But for one former banker it is the key to a civic and eco-energy revolution.”

The story is that dog excrement currently sent to landfill will be turned into gas fuel and fertiliser by a newly invented digester process. Is that not interesting? Not interesting enough for the Sturm und Drang school of intro-writing, which insists on an opening paragraph filled at any cost with drama and conflict. The cost, in this case, is inflicting on the reader a vivid explanation of how disgusting dog mess is. But we all know how disgusting dog mess is. You don’t need to spoil our breakfast. Note, by the way, the infallible mark of a Sturm und Drang intro: the last sentence of the paragraph begins with “But– ”. Always there must be a clash of opposites.

Whom was that? This is from a report on Icelandic politics, published last Saturday. “Whether Mr Benediktsson, or Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson of the Progressives, becomes the next Prime Minister in the coalition government the parties will, barring a miracle, form is an extremely complex matter. But whomever it is, the next four years might just be as fascinating as the last.”

“Whomever” should be “whoever”. The first sentence is overcomplicated. By the end of it, the writer has forgotten that it was about who would become Prime Minister, not whom the parties would appoint to the job. In any case, should we be using the word “whomever” at all? I’m all for preserving interesting old words, but “whomever” looks too baroque for a news story.

React Now

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

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Taking on Ukip requires a delicate balancing act for both main parties

Andrew Grice
Today is a bigger Shabbes than usual in the Jewish world because it has been chosen to launch the Shabbos Project  

Shabbes exerts a pull on all Jews, and today is bigger than ever

Howard Jacobson
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker