Errors & Omissions: moderate, iconic royals are a shoe-in for a pedantic kicking

A news report should be above such vulgarity

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The Independent Online

The squalid tale of Prince Andrew’s alleged, and denied, involvement with a 17-year-old girl in the US in 2001 slithers on. On Thursday we reported: “When she met Prince Andrew, she claims, she was aware that he was a British royal.”

That should be “a member of the British Royal Family”. Why is that colloquial use of “royal” as a noun so irritating? I think because the writer seems to be trying to ward off any suspicion of being overawed by royalty. “Look at me – I’m being cheeky about a prince!” That would be all right in a comment piece, but news reports should be above such posturing.

Proof, if any were needed, of how vulgar it is to call the Royal Family “the royals” was provided on another page of the same day’s paper. Here was a story about a forthcoming television series, made in the US, featuring a fictional British royal family, headed by “King Simon” and “Queen Helena”.

Described as “possibly the worst show in the history of TV”, this travesty is called – you guessed it – The Royals.

• One of the two silliest current vogue adjectives is, of course, “iconic”. (The other is “incredible”.) “Iconic” popped up again in the introductory blurb to an article in last Saturday’s Radar: “The screenwriter Brian Clemens, who died last week, was the man who moulded The Avengers – and took it from spy-fi TV cult to iconic Sixties landmark.”

From this blizzard of fatuity two questions emerge. What is the difference between a plain, ordinary landmark and an iconic landmark; and by what signs do you notice that a TV show has turned from a cult to a landmark – or, indeed, an icon?

• A feature article published on Thursday informed us that “‘Where’s my hoverboard?’ is not a shoe-in for the motto of 2015.”

I think that should be “shoo-in”, and I believe the term comes from the crooked end of horse-racing, probably in America somewhere around 1900. A shoo-in is a horse that is so certain to win that it will cross the finishing line like a sheep being shooed into a pen.

True or not, that is at least plausible. Can anybody explain what on earth a “shoe-in” might be?

• “If it should turn out that the most moderate Muslim unthinkingly propounds a narrative that fuels the fanatic mind…” said a comment piece last Saturday. It is very common to see the words “moderate Muslims” applied to law-abiding mainstream Muslims.

I do not see how it can fail to do real harm, suggesting as it does that they are only moderately Muslim, and that their adherence to Islam (bad) has been moderated by something else (good) – presumably Western values or plain common sense.

The implication of that is clear: the real, serious, unmoderated, full-strength Muslims are the ones who murder cartoonists and set up “caliphates”.