Errors & Omissions: it’s a fair cop – a ‘fair share’ is a fairly futile cliché

Curators, bulldozers, scans and other bloopers in this week’s Independent

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The Independent Online

There were some strange ideas of fairness in Thursday’s paper. First an editorial opined that sponsoring peace talks in the Arab world “has proved a fairly futile exercise”. Futile means useless or doomed to failure. That is an absolute quality; you can’t have degrees of futility.

You can see what happened here. Somebody shied away from the very absoluteness of “futile” and sought to hedge bets by adding “fairly”. If you don’t think the peace talks are really futile, ditch “futile” and find another word.

Then a feature article on the new personnel at Top Gear informed us that Jodie Kidd (above), “as a veteran of the fashion industry, has probably encountered her fair share of misogyny before”. So, what would be Jodie Kidd’s fair share of misogyny? How do you determine how much misogyny a woman deserves?

This “fair share” cliché is irritating. People will say, “Well, it’s just a manner of speaking.” Quite: a manner of speaking without engaging the brain. Everybody “knows what it means”, but only so long as they disregard the actual meaning of the words, which is gibberish.

• The incoming tide of the verb “curate” reached a new level this week, as we reported that a Leeds company has bought an island off Croatia, which it says it plans to turn into “the world’s first curated entertainment tourist destination” – the company’s words, not our reporter’s. So, a word that started life meaning to look after exhibits in a museum now embraces setting up an “idyllic party destination”.

• “Bulldozing of Palestinian olive groves ‘a war crime’ ”, said a Tuesday headline. A picture caption referred to “bulldozers” clearing land. The photograph, however, showed a vehicle with big fat wheels and a bucket on the front. That is a wheel loader: a bulldozer has tracks and a blade. The effect on olive trees is probably the same.

• A confusing headline appeared last Saturday: “Innocent face? Criminal database scans for festival goers”. What is the criminal database going to scan, looking for festival goers?

A second reading turns it round: “scans” is a noun, not a verb. The festival goers are going to have criminal database scans.

• Here is another daft headline, from Wednesday: “Total rejection by over-65s was real reason for Labour’s defeat”. What is “total” doing there, apart from filling space? It adds nothing to the impact of “rejection”, and it isn’t true, suggesting as it does that not one person aged over 65 voted Labour.

• Last Saturday we reported on possible candidates for the London mayoralty. The story spoke of Zac Goldsmith “putting himself in poll position to represent the Conservatives”.

That should be pole position – the most advantageous position at the start of a race. The term is said to derive from horse-racing, where the fastest qualifier would start on the inside, next to the pole marking the start.

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