Mea Culpa: sparks fly as knives are sharpened

Questions of style and usage in last week’s Independent

John Rentoul
Saturday 19 October 2019 16:41
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One metaphor this week conjured up an unwanted image
One metaphor this week conjured up an unwanted image

Our report on the latest figures for recorded crime began: “Knife crime has risen to a new record in England and Wales, sparking calls for authorities to ‘break the spiral of violence’.” I know “sparking” is a useful journalese word, that seems a bit livelier than “prompting”, but it conjured up for me an unfortunate image of thugs sharpening their knives on an old-fashioned grinder, sending sparks flying.

White-water ride: Cliches rise and fall in popularity. I hadn’t seen “raft of measures” for a while, but it cropped up in a news-in-brief item last week. “The absence of a housing bill from the Queen’s Speech has cast doubt on a raft of measures pledged by the last prime minister,” we reported.

I was so pleased to see it, and the accompanying vision of Theresa May lashing logs of legislation together and launching them down the rapids running through parliament before they were lost in a hidden backwater, that I wondered if I should campaign for the phrase to be used more often.

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