Mea Culpa: let us call a skip a skip and an issue a problem

Questions of style and usage in last week’s Independent

John Rentoul
Sunday 29 December 2019 13:21
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Grace under fire: South Africa’s Quinton de Kock unleashes a hackneyed ‘opening salvo’ against England
Grace under fire: South Africa’s Quinton de Kock unleashes a hackneyed ‘opening salvo’ against England

Our “Pictures of the Day” feature before Christmas included a dramatic photo of people in silhouette against red flames. The caption said: “Protesters set fire to dumpsters and tyres as they block a road in the southern Lebanese city of Sidon.” Mick O’Hare wrote to say that he had to check what a dumpster was. In Britain we call it a skip.

Weak word: In a couple of reports about the death of a man and two children in a swimming pool at a Spanish hotel, we said the hotel operator said it “had found no issues with the pool”. I assume “issues” was the language the hotel company used, but there is no reason for us to repeat it unless we are quoting directly. The hotel means “faults” or “problems”, so we should say that.

How many? We confused our irregular plurals in a review of tea bags last week. “Each teabag is unbleached (hence its more earthy colour), organic, fairtrade, plastic free and non GM,” we said. “It was the world’s first pillow-shaped bag to meet this criteria and was launched in 2018.” Thanks to Philip Nalpanis for pointing out that we meant “these criteria”.

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