NOTE: I have accepted the challenge of posting daily blog entries throughout November. Not wanting to test your patience, I have decided to make my posts, which I’m calling Daily Frolics, as brief as the subject allows. Here is the second.
On a murky November Sunday, nothing beats spending a few leisurely hours perusing quality British newspapers, of which The Sunday Telegraph is supposed to be one. Priding itself on the calibre of its offering, it does nevertheless catch its unsuspecting readers unawares on occasion. Under the headline Banker held over two sex murders, today’s edition reports on the alleged murder of two women by a British banker in Hong Kong, the article containing this sentence.
“This body belonged to a person who has passed away for quite some time,” he said.
Whatever the spokesman of the Hong Kong police really said, the copy-editor should have realised that the actual act of passing away has no duration (at least not in the conventional sense) and leapt into action; his – or her – intervention might have resulted in something like this.
It’s a body of a person who has been deceased for quite some time …
Mistakes such as this, while common among non-native speakers of English, are relatively rare among the natives, yet they do have unlikely perpetrators on these shores. The Sunday Times thus described what a person might do to qualify for the label of a bad house guest.
“Cook a full English [breakfast] at 11.45am, using every pan, then fall asleep all afternoon.”
Whereas one might indeed sleep all afternoon, one would have to be severely afflicted by insomnia to take a whole afternoon to actually fall asleep. The Independent is in the same league with its article criticising security at the House of Commons during the visit there of some IRA (Irish Republican Army) members.
“One of the ‘IRA men’ had been observed leaving to go to the lavatory, unaccompanied, for 20 minutes.”
While he might indeed have been observed leaving for the lavatory, the very act of leaving did not take 20 minutes – not even if he was crawling. Thus:
One of the ‘IRA men’ had been observed going to the lavatory, unaccompanied, where he spent 20 minutes.
In light of the above, we might forgive the manufacturers of a stainless steel vacuum carafe, who supplied those instructions with their product.
Hot liquids: Fill it with hot water for 3 minutes
What they meant was, of course, this.
Fill it with hot water and leave for 3 minutes
But at least they were manufacturers – not journalists.