Some of you might have heard about a recent by-election in my parliamentary constituency, Copeland. Propelled by the sense of civic responsibility, I duly attended a local hustings, at which our independent candidate revealed his impeccable Europhobic credentials with the rhetorical question “A million Poles enough for you?” No sooner had I regained composure than I was assaulted with his campaign leaflet, in which the wannabe MP regaled us with the following pronouncement:
The Green Party are being venimently [sic] against nuclear energy.
Are they really? In an obvious attempt to be even-handed, the leaflet proceeded to castigate other political parties:
The farming community has been hit by this present governments [sic] stopping of subsidies.
Predictably, the Labour Party, currently presided over by Jeremy Corbyn, did not escape unscathed either.
The same can be said of Labour supporters who vote for Jeremy Corbyns [sic] Labour Party.
In an attempt to hit us hard with his anti-global-warming message, the campaigner chided us thus:
How many times does Keswick have to flood before the resident’s [sic] get the message. [sic]
The environmental theme needed to be reinforced, so the leaflet contained the following imploration:
We all need to change our behaviour now to slow down global warming to ensure our ancestors [sic] have a planet to inhabit.
But of course! It also appeared as if our independent candidate felt that a wee threat could go a long way.
To the people who disagree with me, I have bad news for you, but you will dislike global warming and increased sea levels even less [sic]!
Will we really? And the campaigner had other gripes:
Recent cost cutting decisions such as the demolition of the public toilets in Whitehaven is [sic] disgraceful.
But, hearteningly, the leaflet wasn’t all negative:
Land based wind turbines can produce energy much cheaper and more accessible [sic] than their off-shore counterparts.
The publication finished on an uncharacteristically literate, if a tad contradictory, note:
We have the 27th best education system in the world and every year it seems to get worse. The state education system has failed to produce results, so a drastic rethink is required to improve results.
It was rather hard to resist the conclusion that the leaflet had been produced by the very embodiment of this failure.
Having been greatly distracted by two momentous events, Brexit and the American election, I’ve been very remiss with this blog. And, let’s face it, language misdemeanours, however diverting, pale into insignificance with what’s going on in the world. But having stumbled across this snippet, widely broadcast by the British media, I’m unable to resist a mini-rant. The revelation came courtesy of an eminent foreign correspondent, who commented on a catastrophic plane crash thus.
There is little hope of finding survivors alive.
Although overcome with an overwhelming sadness, I nevertheless wondered whether there might be some dead survivors – an obvious (to me, at least) interpretation of this tautological statement. As I’ve mentioned in other posts, tautology – saying the same thing twice in different words – is a stylistic fault which is quite common, but the venerable BBC and its reporters might be expected to be above such lapses. What the correspondent should have said is, of course, this.
There is little hope of finding anybody alive.
There is little hope of finding any survivors.
Isn’t freedom of speech an absolute marvel? We in the United (at least for now) Kingdom flaunt our delight in it at every opportunity, and our press barons make great play of allowing readers to have their say. One of our quality broadsheets, The Sunday Times, regularly invites culture vultures onto the pages of one of its supplements, Culture. There, in the column entitled You Say, they are offered an opportunity to vent their spleen, or otherwise, about our TV fare. And so, in this week’s edition, we stumbled on the following, rather indignant, pronouncement.
Whatever has happened to BBC Breakfast? Its decline in standards and quality is dropping like an express elevator. Whatever happened to high-quality professional journalists/ broadcasters?
The thing is, whenever one exercises one’s right to this cherished freedom it might be an idea to engage one’s cerebral cortex first. If something is dropping – albeit metaphorically – it diminishes, of course. So the viewers of BBC Breakfast can, in fact, rejoice: the decline is slowing down. Alas, the incensed reader said the exact opposite of what he was attempting to say, which was this.
Its standards and quality are dropping like an express elevator (rather than their decline).
Its decline in standards and quality is accelerating like an express elevator.
And whatever happened to newspaper sub-editors?
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 2,500 times in 2015. If it were a cable car, it would take about 42 trips to carry that many people.
Click here to see the complete report.
Being a perfectionist can be a genuine curse – not that perfection will ever be within my grasp. But whatever I write I always find severely wanting and can’t resist tinkering with. I have thus completely revised not one but two books, the second being An Alien in a Madhouse, which has now become a much shorter Who’s Put Rat Into Bureaucrat?
Like its predecessor, the book pokes fun at officialdom, officialese, political correctness gone mad and the vagaries of office life. It also ponders some of the usage booby-traps strewn across English, detonating a few of them with irreverent jocularity. This is why the book can also be seen as a reference source addressing several troublesome points of grammar, punctuation and spelling – albeit humorously. And it is a short extract from this book that is given in the next post, its subject being tautology – a very common stylistic lapse.
The reason why it’s posted separately is the text’s categorical refusal to fit underneath this introduction – don’t ask me why!
At this special time of year
Let me raise a Yuletide cheer:
Merry Christmas to you all,
Just relax and have a ball
And, to say the very least,
Most delicious festive feast;
But, though tipple is no sin,
Do go easy on the gin!