Mea Culpa: a parent, displayed as a warning to others

Questions of style and language in last week’s Independent, reviewed by John Rentoul

Saturday 09 October 2021 23:11
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<p>Aerial view of the normally busy approach to Melbourne </p>

Aerial view of the normally busy approach to Melbourne

This was in a Washington Post report on Australian lockdowns which we republished, but it is a useful warning to us all, like heads on pikes displayed after medieval rebellions: “As she loads groceries and nappies into her car, Saphire Hall stops to talk to a neighbour. The mother of four has already been fined A$1,000 (£535) for giving her cousin a lift during the outbreak.”

Apart from its being unclear whether it is Hall or the neighbour who has four children, it is not our style to define people by the size of their family. Although it would be a neat trick if, just for a day, we referred to all men at second mention as “the father of two” or whatever.

Tearing up the roads: In one of our reports of the London marathon, we said: “Junior doctor Phil Sesemann swapped his scrubs for spikes and finished in a remarkable seventh place.” As Roger Thetford wrote to point out, some people do run the marathon in notably unsuitable gear – but it is unlikely that anyone tried it in spikes, which are designed for running on grass, and even less likely that they would finish in the top 10.

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