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When good subbing is essential, Part 96…

December 8, 2011 Leave a comment

When you’re writing a scoop about educational standards…

telegraph.co.uk, 08/12/11

Where SASSIES come from

March 8, 2011 Leave a comment

Typo on Spectator's blog

Confused words

July 23, 2010 Leave a comment

Former NME writer David Quantick, writing about Keith Chegwin (hey, it’s a living) in today’s Telegraph, says:

Acts such as Milton Jones and Stewart Lee spend years developing an individual style and to have it mined by poltroons is insulting…

Poltroon? Poltroon means “an utter coward”. I can’t see quite how that fits In Quantick’s sentence: what’s so cowardly about nicking other comedians’ stuff?

Harry Hutton, on the excellent but now sadly moribund Chase me, ladies, I’m in the cavalry website, once made the point that people trying to be archly archaic often use “poltroon” when they actually mean “buffoons”, or something else. I suspect that’s the case here: “mountebanks” or “rapscallions” would have served Quantick’s point better and made more sense. As indeed would “whoresons”.

Come to think of it, “moribund” is another word journalists get wrong, thinking it means “dead”. It means, of course, in terminal decline, lacking vigour or (in a person) on the point of death but haven’t quite karked it yet. But such is the systemic decline in good English in the media that you’ll quite often come across sentences like “The market in Betamax videotapes is moribund”.

“Systemic” is yet another word journalists have a lot of trouble with, confusing it with “systematic”. “The media reports skeptical arguments very poorly. I think it’s a systematic problem with science writing,” I read on a blog yesterday. The writer meant “systemic” –  of or relating to the whole system, rather than a particular, localised part of it. “Systematic” means that it’s all done to a set agenda or plan, as in “Police carried out a systematic search of the building”.

There you go: three clarifications of easily confused words, all stemming from a why-oh-why article about Cheggers and a writer who’s trying to be clever but is actually showing off his ignorance. Isn’t English wonderful?

Why does the Telegraph pay for illiterate buffoons*…

July 10, 2010 Leave a comment

…and I’m still unemployed?

From today’s Telegraph:

Telegraph headline "Five men shot in pre-planned attack"

As opposed to post-planned, then

From the OED:

Plan
verb ( planned |plønd|, planning |plønɪŋ|) [ trans. ]1 decide on and arrange in advance : they were planning a trip to Egypt | [with infinitive ] he plans to fly on Wednesday | [ intrans. ] we plan on getting married in the near future. See note at intend .• [ intrans. ] make preparations for an anticipated event or time : we have to plan for the future.2 design or make a plan of (something to be made or built) : they were planning a garden.

Since the element of precedence is already within the word “planned”, you don’t need pre- before it (see “pre-arranged”, “pre-prepared” et al makes you sic). Look it up in your Funk & Wagnalls, you chimps.

* The illiterate buffoons, of course, reside and work in Australia, where the Telegraph outsourced its web subbing last year. It probably would have been cheaper to hire a literate Kiwi over here in London than to waste foreign exchange subsidising the tinnie-downing activities of a bunch of nescient convict-descendants fooling around in their budgie-smugglers.