Lightning strike death on Highlands mountain was ‘freak accident’

BBC News Online, June 9, 2o19

I would say that death by lightning strike is by definition an accident, freak or otherwise (and freak is a word I would avoid). Are there any recorded instances of deliberate lightning strikes? Since the victim has been identified, a better heading could have been:

Lightning victim named


i newspaper, May 22, 2019

I was pretty horrified by this bit of ignorance. Then I turned to the Times.


The Times, May 22, 2019

And this is in the leader!

Since these shockers appeared on the same day it can’t be one cretin working shifts on two papers. There must be two of them.


The Times, May 14, 2019

It can be hard to decide whether to make a group singular or plural. My feeling is that the larger the group, the easier it is to define it as singular eg ‘the audience was delighted’. As you get to smaller groups, they become more obviously composed of individuals and plural feels better. And I don’t think you can possibly say ‘a couple is’. I would suggest that it makes life easier to go for plural every time. (Sports teams are traditionally plural.) Anyway, the cardinal rule is that you make a decision about singular or plural and stick to it. This rule has been manifestly ignored here, with uncomfortable results.

In the intro and beginning of the third par, we have a group treated as singular. At the end of the third par we have the painful ‘The group points out (singular) that they (plural) . . .’

They remain plural at the start of the fourth par.

In the second leg we turn to the 1922 Committee which starts out as singular (‘its’). In the next par we see ‘In their (plural) letter the group of senior Tories warns (singular) . . .’

It’s a mess.





The Times, April 20, 2019

Rare?! I am willing to bet that there has never been a previous case of a pensioner on his roof in the early hours being shot with a crossbow. Even if the police (or others) say stupid things, it is a kindness to save them from themselves by not using them.



The Times, April 17, 2019

What a peculiar way to express this, as if he had inflicted all these injuries on himself.

The way to do it is:

He suffered broken wrists and various bones in his legs, a shattered right arm, punctured lungs, liver damage and facial injuries.

Since the story is about a cricketer who is hoping to play again, the interesting injuries are the ones which could affect his playing ability and so should go at the top of the list.


Monterrey Open: Garbine Muguruza defends title as Victoria Azarenka withdraws

BBC Sport website, April 8, 2019

For the nth time, ‘defend’ in this context simply means that the player is taking part in an event which she won last time. It does not imply a result one way or the other. To convey that Muguruza won, this should say that she ‘retains’ the title or ‘successfully defends’ it.


April 6, 2019

A reader writes: I am a regular listener to sports broadcasts on BBC Radio 5 Live. I am irritated that the presenters consistently talk about ‘commentary of’ matches, as in ‘we have commentary of Spurs v Crystal Palace’.

For me, this has the quality of a verbal tic, which interrupts and disturbs the broadcast.

I can find no precedent for saying ‘commentary of’ an event. The OED refers to the 1970 BBC Handbook which says ‘Radio 2 . . . carries commentaries on major sporting events of all kinds’.

The OED does refer to ‘commentaries of’, but only in the instance of Dickens  in Our Mutual Friend, ‘Mortimer laughed again, with his usual commentaries of “How can you be so ridiculous, Eugene!” and “What an absurd fellow you are!”,’ in which the author is referring to the remarks, not something that is being commentated on.

My nasty suspicion is that this is an obsession of some senior executive, inflicted on both unfortunate broadcasters and listeners.

Am I right to be irritated?

My reply: You are certainly right to be irritated. ‘Commentary of’ in this context is not English but gibberish. I would not be at surprised to hear that some ‘senior’ executive, which no doubt means a person aged about 22, has a bee in his or her bonnet. It reminds me of an occasion at the Daily Mail when the then deputy editor insisted that ‘he has another think coming’ was ‘another thing coming’, and forced it into a leader against all protests. Once such people get one of these wrong ideas into their heads, it is the devil’s own job to make them see sense, so I fear you are doomed to irritation for the foreseeable future.


THEY are too young to study Charles Dickens’ classic A Tale Of Two Cities, but children in a new housing development are learning its lessons about class divisions the hard way.

For youngsters living in social housing flats in a multi-million-pound estate have been banned from playing alongide children whose parents own their apartments.

Daily Mail (print version), March 27, 2019

Here is a classic example of someone showing off, trying to be clever, and falling flat on his or her face.  A Tale of Two Cities is about London and Paris. The perpetrator was presumably thinking of Disraeli’s Sybil, or The Two Nations, which examines the contrasts between the luxurious life of the Victorian aristocracy and the extreme poverty of the working people.

In any event, why bother? To my surprise I found that Mail Online had got it right:

Poorer children have been banned from playing alongside richer youngsters whose families have bought £615,000 properties in the multi-million pound development where they all live.

Mail Online, March 27, 2019

I think I might have left this clause out of the intro

whose families have bought £615,000 properties

to make it

Poorer children have been banned from playing alongside richer youngsters in the multi-million pound development where they all live.

But it is to the point, tells the story, and doesn’t make you throw down the paper (or iPad) in despair.

PS The Daily Mail version has ‘Dickens’ Tale of Two Cities‘ – it should be Dickens’s because names ending in ‘s’ are treated like any other,  so Mrs Smith’s house and Mr Dickens’s book.




The Times, March 19, 2019, Page 1

There remains a widespread but wrong belief that putting ‘last night’ in an intro makes it sound immediate. Maybe this was the case when newspapers were the main source of information but in these days of 24-hour news it sounds archaic. In any case, unless something spectacular  happened overnight, if Britain was facing a constitutional crisis last night, it will still be facing it today.

This intro should be on these lines:

John Bercow stands accused of causing a constitutional crisis by ‘sabotaging’ Theresa May’s efforts to rescue her Brexit deal.

Downing Street was stunned . . .