Rantings of a sub-editor

February 23, 2010

Picky pants

Filed under: oops!,velvet glove — substuff @ 9:50 am
Tags: ,

Perhaps I was in a picky mood this morning – moi? Anyway, I noticed a couple of tricksy little bits of English.

This headline and standfirst in the Guardian:

BA boss needs to wear a velvet glove
Striking British Airways cabin crew are at fault but Willie Walsh needs to keep in mind they are key to the airline’s success

I struggled to read the standfirst, because (prompted, presumably, by the velvet glove in the headline) I read ‘striking’ to mean ‘attractive’, or ‘bold-looking’. Of course, it means ‘on strike’. Duh. Maybe I just have a latent desire for striking velvet gloves… (by which I mean attractive velvet gloves rather than velvet gloves that refuse to perform their glove-like duties until I satisfy their pay demands, or a desire to commit violence towards velvet gloves). Still, it’s worth bearing in mind that the word acts as an adjective as well as a verb.

And this sentence, over at The Times:

Lord Mandelson, the Business Secretary, insisted that nobody at No 10 would endure bullying as he defended the Prime Minister from allegations over his behaviour towards staff.

My issue here is with the word ‘as’. It is being used to describe two things that are happening at the same time, but the problem is that there are three things going on here – not two:

  1. Lord Mandelson insisting
  2. People not enduring bullying
  3. Lord Mandelson defending the Prime Minister
    As a result, it reads somewhat clumsily. Nobody will be bullied during Lord Mandelson’s defence of the Prime Minister? I should hope not.

I’d also question whether ‘endure’ is the correct choice of word – defined by the OED as: ‘suffer [something painful or difficult] with patience’. Not quite what he meant, I assume, and the word ‘suffer’ or ‘experience’ would probably be more apt.

In fact, no more Mr Nice Guy. I hate this sentence! “Nobody would endure bullying”? Well have they in the past, then? Or not? They did but no longer? What are you telling me, Mr Mandelson? I don’t understand!

Closer to home, we’ve got the usual compliment/complement and comprise/include problems… I feel a post coming on.


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