Mea Culpa: on your bike to sell some dodgy cures

John Rentoul’s regular roundup of errors and omissions

Saturday 06 February 2021 21:30
<p>This cyclist is not trying to sell you something</p>

This cyclist is not trying to sell you something

We had a subheadline on a comment article that started: “Coronavirus sceptics pedal misleading narratives…” This is one of those misspellings that seems to make sense, in that the coronavirus sceptics might be propelling the misleading narratives as if they were riding a bicycle, or a hobby horse. But the original meaning was “peddle”, as in sell, in the derogatory sense of making misleading claims about a product. 

That’s the trouble with antique words preserved in the aspic of metaphor: people who are unfamiliar with the original word substitute a more familiar one. In this case, possibly influenced by a sentence in the article about “the foot taken off the pedal in terms of academic attainment” – which is a different metaphor altogether. 

Then there is “narratives”. That should have set off the academic jargon klaxon. “Claims” would have done perfectly well. 

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