On-going updates 2022 – English Like It Is

This is a new post beginning 18 January 2021. If you have been directed here recently by a link from another site, you might find the item you’re looking for on a previous Updates page.

The 2021 revision of the 2009 second edition of English Like It Is is now available on Amazon as a Kindle ebook.

This blog gathers citations that will be considered for the next version of the book. It is about errors mainly in print but also on serious internet sites and even the odd street sign. Mistakes made by professional writers and editors will be copied by readers, and unchallenged persistent errors weaken the language.

“Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble.” George Orwell

“I’ve found that people who make fewer mistakes on a grammar test also make fewer mistakes when they are doing something completely unrelated to writing.” [a chief executive writing in the Harvard Business Review] (ITim 28/3/15 News Review p. 5)

SurveyMonkey poll released Sunday, 84% of respondents said they would be less likely to trust the government if its communications contained spelling or grammatical mistakes. Additionally, 74% of respondents said they would be less likely to trust that a politician is doing a good job leading the country if their social media posts contain such errors. (SFGate 19/5/17 online)

“Whom are you?” he asked, for he had attended business college. (from “The Steel Box” in the Chicago Record, 16 March 1898)

“The deterioration of copy editing and proof-reading, incidentally, is a token of the cultural entropy that has overtaken us in the post-war years.” John Simon (1925 – 2019), American critic of stage, film, books and the misuse of language

Soft targets like tabloids, local papers and hobby magazines are not the focus of this book, but The Irish Mail on Sunday is an exception. Not only are its serious articles at least as well written as those in the “quality” sheets, the UK edition outsells all others except The Sun on Sunday, so it is fair game.

American and Australian publications are generally not included; their grasp of the language is not nearly as secure as their British and Irish counterparts.

Circulation figures for January 2018. UK: Mail on Sunday, 1,106,067; Irish Mail on Sunday, 68,609; Sunday Times, 739,845; Sunday Telegraph, 298,720; Observer, 176,795; Independent on Sunday (print edition now defunct; last circulation figure 101,284). Ireland: Irish Times (the only quality Irish paper) 79,255 print, 18,903 digital (Jan-June 2018).

A guide to abbreviations is at the end of the citations.

Readers’ comments are welcome. Nit-pickers are especially encouraged.

Discovering Discovering the satanic leaf-tailed tail gecko, the mythological reptile, the mythological reptile [sic sic sic] (Pets Lover online 18/1/23)
This sort of gibberish is an insult to the reader, but it also serves as a warning that the following article is probably unreliable.
“Pets Lover” suggests that the piece is aimed at one person only. Pet Lovers makes more sense. It doesn’t mean that many people love just one animal. The Latin expression unum pro multis, literally “one for many”, applies, as in “lend me a hand”, when you can logically expect two hands to assist in a task.

Storms wreck havoc on California (The Daily Digest online 12/1/23)

Such a tangled web we have weaved (IMoS 8/1/23, p. 24)
Weave, wove, woven for making cloth or a web. Weave, weaved, weaved for erratic or frequently changing movement: the drunk weaved down the street; the motorcycle weaved in and out of traffic.

According to the Russian Emergency Situations Ministry, more than 70 firefighters and 18 pieces of equipment were involved in removing the fire. (Daily Express online 12/1/23)
Where did they remove it to? Householders’ fireplaces? Robot reporter strikes again.

Critics and commentators have poured over the recently published autobiography by Prince Harry … (Daily Express online 7/1/23)
Pored. But some have certainly poured scorn over it.

On Sunday night, five people were killed after someone open fired inside a condo building in Vaughan, a city 18 miles away from Canada’s capital city Toronto. (Daily Express online 19/12/22)
Ottawa is the capital of Canada. Toronto is the capital of the province of Ontario. Opened fire.

The housing director for Waterford has suggested he would “be loathe” to introduce a policy … (Journal.ie online 17/12/22)
Loath with a soft “th” is the adjective meaning reluctant. “Loathe” with a hard “th” is a verb meaning hate: he would loathe to introduce … Update: this was corrected later the same day.

Footage then shows the missile being lowered into the launch silo and then titled 90 degrees. (Daily Express online 16/12/22)
Photos show the missile being transported horizontally, then tilted 90 degrees and lowered into the silo to be launched vertically.

[The Japanese] Army terminates five military personnel for sexually harassing a female officer who left her post after she reported the incident [head] … sexually harassing a female colleague from spring 2020 to August 2021, after which the woman decided … Gonoi, for his part, said he hopes … After leaving the Army, Gonoi filed a petition with the Defense Ministry to open an investigation into her case. [text] (News 360 online 15/12/22)
The woman is Japanese, and her name is Rina Gonoi. Westerners would not know if that is a male or female name, but the head and text clearly identify her as female. Why does the sentence with “Gonoi, for his part, said he hopes” identify her as male?

One 14-year-old boy was captured and held in cells for taking a photo of broken Russian equipment, accordion to the Human Rights Commissioner. (Daily Express online 15/12/22)
According. Like several other entries on this blog, this appears to be the mischief of a robot masquerading as a human journalist.

… election race between incumbent Republican Lauren Boebert and her Democratic challenger, Adam Frisch. … Boebert, for his part, has already celebrated his victory and has assured that the recount of ballots will not change anything, since his lawyers will make sure that this is the case and that the recount is carried out correctly. (News 360 online 2/12/22)
That Boebert is female is acknowledged at the top of the article. Why is her sex changed at the end?

[head] Ireland taxi warning as rouge drivers ripping off passengers with sneaky “extra” charge (Irish Mirror online 30/11/22)
Rogue is in the text.

 [head] Ferrari line up replacement as Mattia Binotto steps down as team principle (extra.ie online 29/11/22)
Principal is in the text. Reminds me of two sayings in education. Old teachers never die, they just lose their principals. Old principals never die, they just lose their faculties.

“… successive Conservative ministers have buried their heads in the sand while Britain’s coastlines have been polluted with foul sewage.” (Obs 27/11/22 p. 1.19)
This self-imposed penance should be punishment enough – lessons learned, as the cliché goes – and when they extract their stinking heads from the foul beach, pat phrases including the word “priority” might come into play.

[head] Charles “wrangled” by Kate stealing limelight and upstaging him during major royal events [text] Daily Mail Diary Editor Richard Eden said: “Remember the day the Charles was proclaimed King. He wasn’t on the front pages because the Sunday papers had all that walkabout at Windsor with Catherine, William, Harry and Meghan. He was sort of known to be resentful when Diana used to get all the headlines. Now he’s King but it’s Catherine on the front pages. I’m sure it does wrangle a bit.” (Daily Express online 27/11/22)
Rankle: annoy, irritate. To wrangle is to argue or dispute, often for an extended period; also, to control animals, like a horse wrangler on a western film set. However, those super-charming princesses’ wrangling of that prince/king in the second sense doesn’t seem unlikely.
Delete the second “the” in “Remember the day the Charles.” Delete “sort of”.

But anyway I summoned up my nerve and I telephoned one of the Oxford colleges, Christ Church. “Me and a friend would like to come to your open day,” I started, rather tremulously. And the admissions lady responded by correcting me: “My friend and I,” she said emphatically. … So anyway I didn’t apply to Christ Church, I applied for New College because they didn’t correct my grammar on the phone. (Telegraph online 26/11/22, quoting MP Rachel Reeves)
A Gold Star to the woman at Christ Church. I wonder whether Ms Reeves said “Me and a friend” or “My friend and I” to her initial contact at New College. Delete both “anyways”.

[Payer] is a combination between the verb pay, which is an interchange of money or goods to discharge a debt or obligation, and the suffix -er, used in regular English to form nouns. … It is known that the prefix -or is used in classical and post-classical Latin nouns to create nouns. Therefore, it is valid that pay (or) exists because it makes sense to add the prefix -or to the verb pay. … However, when the noun expresses an agent, the -er prefix is preferable and more common. According to our searches in modern English, we can only add the suffix -or to words derived from Latin; however, it is not easy to identify them. … The term payor with the -or prefix seems to be the correct way to spell it because it is reasonable to assume that the verb pay to become a noun should have the prefix -or. However, in this scenario, -er is the preferable suffix because it is the most commonly found in texts and reliable websites.
(The Content Authority online accessed 23/11/22)
“Payer” and “payor” are both correct, the former more common in everyday use and the latter reserved for formal, especially legal, use. This article seems to have been written by two people, one who correctly describes “-or/er” as a suffix and another who thinks it is a prefix. “Fix” derives from Latin fixus, past participle of figare, meaning to fasten. “Pre” means before. “Sub” means under or behind. In “suffix”, the “b” in “sub” is changed to an “f” by the “f” in “fix”.
The term “authority” is conferred by a consensus of experts on a person they consider an equal. It should not be self-assumed.

[In a review of U2 band leader Bono’s memoir, Surrender:] He had an extraordinary drive from the beginning. … He didn’t take “no” or “not yet” for an answer, so he continually propelled himself forward, oblivious to the effect of his insouciance on others. (IMoS 13/11/22 p. 44)
“Insouciance” is not at all suitable here. It means carefree or unworried attitude, lack of concern, nonchalance. Passion, enthusiasm, fixation would be more appropriate.

[US Vice President Kamala Harris, who is female, met with Philippines President Marcos after a hostile incident between the Philippine and Chinese navies.] … he [Harris] spoke … the Philippine president thanked Harris for his “very strong commitment” … “His visit is a very strong symbol …” (News 360 online 21/11/22)
She/her/her. The article may have been translated by a Spanish speaker from Spanish, which can be ambiguous as to gender: “su” means his/her/its, and a pronoun is not always attached to the verb.

Although Harris did not directly name China, he referred to the Asian giant when he backed the Philippines … “peaceful resolution of disputes,” she said. … He has also pointed out that the United States … he continued. (News 360 online 22/11/22)
Same news outlet, same story, little progress in the gender department the following day.

… “smart bullets” fired from conventional firearms to hone in on approaching drones as a last line of defence. (The i online 20/11/22)
Home. Microsoft spell/grammar check spotted this, so why didn’t the writer or an editor?

“… seems to be blithely spending hundreds of millions of euro” on procurement deals “without so much as a buy or leave”. (IMoS 13/11/22 p. 4, quoting from a transcript of a recording of a meeting of civil servants)
By your leave, ie, with your permission, though “buy or leave” does have a twisted logic in the context of procurement.
Also, when the euro replaced the Irish pound, the government decreed that the plural of “euro” was “euro”, contrary to grammatical logic and in spite of the fact that other languages logically add their plural ending: Spanish “euros”, for example, except in the Canary Islands, where “doh heuro” can be heard for “dos euros”. But most Irish people obediently use “euro” for the plural, probably following established custom. Country folk typically used to say “three pound forty” and “one pounds fifty”.

[Grover] Cleveland [1837-1908] ran for the Democratic Party for the first time in 1884. … In 1982, and with high approval ratings, he ran again and won by nearly three percentage points. … However, increasingly angry with his successor William Howard Taft, [Theodore Roosevelt] decided to challenge him in the 1912 elections under the acronym of the Progressive Party. (News 360 online 16/11/22)
“1982” is probably the writer’s mistyping for 1892. An editor should have caught this; however, it was an editor who changed “1894” to “1984” in one of my books without asking me if it was incorrect.
Also, how is “Progressive Party” an acronym? An acronym is a pronounceable word invented from initial letters: ASAP, radar, NASA (also Nasa), PIN, taser (“Thomas A. Swift’s Electric Rifle”) – all capitalised thus or not, according to general usage. Perhaps the writer meant aegis: shield, protective wing, sponsorship.

Satellite data seemed to suggest that volcanic material was indeed eking from the volcano [Ahyi Seamount in the Northern Mariana Islands], as images viewed by the USGS team showed discoloration in the waters near the suspected site. (Independent online 15/11/22)
Leaking/seeping. “Eke” means to manage on a meagre amount or stretch out a limited supply: eking out a student grant or a freelancer’s earnings. “Eking out a living” is often misinterpreted, eg, eking out a living by doing odd jobs. “Living” in this expression means “an ecclesiastical office to which the revenue from an endowment is attached” (Merriam-Webster online) and is typically taken to be barely enough to survive on with tight budgeting.

[Explanation of why Coke and Pepsi in the UK can taste different:] “Typically it is from a foreign country where they are manufactured to a different pallet.” (Comment on Reddit online 12/11/22 in reply to “Why does Pepsi and Coke from the newsagents always taste a bit weird/off?”)
Palate. A pallet is a platform, usually made of wood, that serves as a base for goods to be lifted by a machine. Hard and soft palates are part of the mouth. By extension, “palate” refers to the sense of taste.

Most presidential aspirants traditionally spend weeks pouring over midterm results and understanding the trove of voter data that they reveal. (The i online 14/11/22)

She also added that while the Department of Justice is loathe to bring charges close to an election … (HuffPost online 13/11/22)
Loath (also “loth”), pronounced with a soft “th” like “thing”, is a predicate adjective meaning “reluctant”: “he is loath to speak.” The descriptive adjective form is “loathsome” or “loathly”, which can also be an adverb. The archaic “laidly” survives as a fossilised use in the traditional ballad “The Laidly Worm” (dragon). “Loathe”, pronounced with a hard “th” like “this”, is a verb meaning “hate”: “she loathes wearing heels.”

They are just a few kilometres from enemy lines and their position is exposed and in the line of fire. (Sky News online 9/11/22)
[A Kherson resident said of the advancing Ukrainian army and the retreat of the Russians:] “I am scared for the winter and worry the city will become a battle ground. We will be in the firing line.” (Telegraph online 11/11/22)
A firing line is a line of people firing guns. Anyone in front of them will be in the line of fire. “In the firing line” is often incorrectly used for “in the line of fire”. But in this case, the woman’s concern is that residents may be caught in the crossfire, being in the line of fire of both armies.

… checking the status of a dozen or more people who lied motionless under blue blankets. (Stel 30/10/22 p. 1.13)
Lay, as the writer should have learned in primary school, is the past tense of “lie” when it means to be horizontal on a surface.

Still, Danish security services remain tight-lipped about their investigations and the three explosion sites remain off-limits. (ITim 29/10/22 p. 1.13)
Closed-mouthed: not revealing information. “Tight-lipped” describes a person speaking with supressed emotion, usually anger, and is frequently used incorrectly for “closed-mouthed”, which seems to be disappearing from writers’ vocabularies.

Those in favour of abolishing the time switch said there were health benefits of doing away with the biannual time shift … (independent.ie online 28/10/22)
“Biannual” (also “bi-annual”) and “semi-annual” both mean twice a year, but the similarity of “biannual” and “biennial” – every two years – can cause confusion. For clarity, “semi-annual” is preferred. “Twice a year” and “every six months” leave no doubt when addressing children.

Sign in the gym in Dublin where I work out: “Male showers are been closed for repair from 17 October.” Sign at the entrance of a pub seen from the gym window: “Hot food is been served now.”
Being in both cases, although “are closed” would suffice for the gym: the showers were closed at the time the sign was posted. This confusion, probably due to people not reading enough well-written texts and reading too much on-line rubbish, has become rampant over the past five years. Update: the sign at the pub now has a menu taped over “been”.

The seizure of top secret documents at Trump’s Florida estate shined a spotlight on what role presidents play in declassifying the government’s most sensitive records. (USA Today online 23/10/22)
This is a rare correct use of transitive “shine” in the past tense. Intransitive “shine” normally takes “shone” (often confused with “shown”): a light shone in the distance. But when there is an object, “shined” is required. Also: top-secret.

Get ready for the big budget bazooka [head] You are heading for a €10 billion budget day bazooka [strapline] By Budget Day I expect it will exceed €3 billion. Add to that the already agreed €6.7 billion, and you are heading for a €10 billion budget day bazooka. [text] (ITim 10/9/22 p. 1.13)
This article is about a “once-off Budget Day package to help with the cost of living”. A bazooka is an anti-tank weapon. A bonanza is an unexpected windfall. A “b” at the beginning and an “a” at the end and internal “z” and “o” are the only similarities between the words. Three instances of “bazooka” suggest that it is the word the writer meant to use. But why?

At any rate, let’s hone in here on Trump’s rant about EVs. (inside EVs online 10/9/22)

It is a stunning building with it’s’ turrets… (https://www.yourirish.com/folklore)
If you don’t know where the apostrophe goes, throw a few at the word and leave them where they stick. In this sentence, its is a possessive adjective and does not require an apostrophe. “It’s” is a contraction for “it is”.

And even holiday readers deserve better than a writing style that ends not just sentences, but an entire novel, on a preposition. (STim 24/7/22 Culture p. 28)
The reviewer of this novel also comments: “It could also have done with better editing.” So could the review. The patron saint of English usage, Henry Fowler, said: “It is a cherished superstition that prepositions must … be kept true to their name & placed before the word they govern. … One of its chief supports is the fact that Dryden, an acknowledged master of English prose, went through all his prefaces contriving away the final prepositions that he had been guilty of in his first edition. … The fact is that the remarkable freedom enjoyed by English in putting its prepositions late & omitting its relatives is an important element in the flexibility of the language. (Modern English Usage, “Preposition at End”)

“Russia, China, Iran and others are targeting [spying on] people in the world of politics and business here [Ireland]. We need to ask ourselves how we mitigate against them.” (STim 24/7/22 p. 1.2)
Militate against or mitigate the effect/impact/danger of the spying. As the word suggests, “militate” means to fight. “Mitigate” comes from the Latin mitigare, to soften or alleviate. Compare: The [Irish] government’s seafood taskforce on mitigating the impact of Brexit … (STim 24/7/22 p. 1.4)

“Now low and behold two years later and boom, she’s awake and able to tell us exactly what happened.” (The Independent online 17/7/22)
Lo and behold. “Lo” means look; the technically redundant “behold” intensifies the word.

“This is gonna go on now though, for days across Iberia Wednesday, it bumps a bit further north we’re gonna see some heat getting into France and Germany … (Daily Express online 13/7/22 quoting weather forecaster speaking to BBC News)
The British and Irish mock Americans for saying “gonna”, but they don’t hear themselves doing the same.

While [Kirk] Douglas was replaced, there had been talk Stallone himself may not have earned the title role of Rambo, with stars such as Al Pacino, Steve McQueen and Dustin Hoffman all touted as potential leads. (Daily Express online 5/7/22)
Might not have earned. “May not” means that we don’t know if it happened.

[Vegetable-based ready meals] can contain twice as much sugar than meat-based versions. (Daily Mail online 4/7/22)
Twice as much sugar as meat-based versions.

Fearsome RAF dual propeller Hercules plane spotted above UK skies [head] The plane is believed to be a C-130J Hercules aircraft and was filmed flying low over the water. The flyover was captured by Janet Tompkins as she stood standing at Seacombe Promenade. [text] (Daily Express online 2/7/22)
A photo of the “dual propeller” plane shows that it has four engines. Flying above the sky, if such a thing were possible, does not describe a plane “filmed flying low over the water”. “Stood standing” adds to the sloppiness.

Vaccine confidence is one our most valuable resources … (The Lancet: Myopericarditis after COVID-19 vaccination, Volume 10, Issue 7, P624-625, July 01, 2022 online)
One of our. The omission of a word, most frequently “of”, is rampant in print as well as online articles, but The Lancet is normally almost word-perfect.

[knitting] It helps me zone out distractions … (STim 12/6/22 Magazine p. 66)
“Hone in on” is frequently used where “home in on” is meant. “Hone” means to sharpen, literally or figuratively: a knife or your wits. “Zone out” can be added to “zone in” and other similar-sounding words like “bone up on” to explain the confusion.

The House Armed Services Committee has raised concerns in a bill over China’s stronghold on the antimony market. (Daily Express online 9/6/22)
Stranglehold. Or strong hold. A stronghold is a fortified defensive position.

Scientists have been able quickly to prove that these record-breaking temperatures are no natural occurrence. (Obs 19/6/22 p. 1.32)
To quickly prove. See next.

It’s entirely possible that Reilly felt compelled to write immediately this entertaining and feelgood follow-up … (IMoS 29/5/22 p. 48)
To immediately write. No reputable usage authority has ever said that splitting an infinitive is wrong. “We will split infinitives sooner than be ambiguous or artificial …” (Fowler, MEU and FMEU). The split infinitive has been a standard construction since at least the late 15th century: “to perfitly knowe alle manere of Naturels thinges” (Secreta Secretorum). The unnatural “to write immediately” demonstrates the awkwardness of slavishly following a false rule imparted by a revered but misguided teacher or an editor who is ignorant of reliable usage guides. Disregard MS Word spellcheck’s advice: “Avoiding multiple words between ‘to’ and a verb is best.”

Time and again we sit beside My Lady [a judge] as she tots up the mitigating and aggravating circumstances of a particular offence. (STim 29/5/22 Culture p. 31)
“Mitigate (against)” for “militate” and “aggravate” for “annoy” are frequent errors. It’s gratifying to see these two words used correctly in a way that clearly demonstrates their meanings.

For the past six months, and significantly in advance of the war in Ukraine the public has been concerned by the rising cost of living. (Independent.ie online 5/6/22)
If this means that the public’s concern came a significantly long time ahead of the Ukraine war, the sentence is correct. However, it seems likely that the writer felt that it is significant that the concern happened even before the projected economic effects of the war. In that case, “significantly” needs to be separated from “and” and “in”: “and, significantly, in advance” or for emphasis “and – significantly – in advance”. Also, a comma following “Ukraine” is required for clarity.

“Would there be a clammer from the European domestic population?” (Daily Express online 2/6/22, quoting The New Statesman’s US editor Emily Tankin speaking on The New Statesman’s World Review podcast)
A clammer is a person who digs for clams. The transcriber of the talk seems to have been unaware of the homonym clamour (US clamor): the sound, literal or figurative, of people making loud or boisterous complaints – creditors clamouring for their money. “Clamber” (with the “b” sounded) means climb with difficulty, perhaps with the aid of hands.

Those staying in Ireland have the alternative option of staying at a cheaper hostel … (Extra.ie online 30/5/22)
Redundant. Either “alternative” or “option” will suffice.

A coffee bar in Florence was fined €1,000 (£846) after an angry customer called the police to complain that the restaurant charged double the average rate for the beverage. … The owner of coffee bar Ditta Artigianale, located at the centre of the Tuscan city, said his establishment was fined because the price of the coffee was not displayed on the menu behind the counter. (The Independent online 19/5/22)
Two separate issues. The fine for not displaying the price was correct. The €2 charge at the Ditta Artigianale is double the cheapest price I’ve come across in Italy. I paid €1 for an expresso that I drank standing inside a bar on Saint Mark’s Square in notoriously expensive Venice, while a restaurant directly across the Square charged €6 for a coffee consumed on the terrace in the presence of live music – which could be heard throughout the Square.

[A Ukrainian MP aspires to rebuild the country] with modern architecture with the modern technical solutions, smart cities, everything. We can be the polygon for the world now. (STel 22/5/22 p. 1.23)
Paragon. When quoting a person with less than perfect English, the writer is expected to save them embarrassment by correcting obvious errors. However, in this case it’s likely that the writer didn’t know the difference between the two words, either.

The force is also using drone technology to route out the perpetrators. (Daily Express online 18/5/22)
Root. British pronunciation of “route” is “root”, whence the spelling error; US is “rawt”.

Electoral outcomes since the war began do not bode well for the West’s collective staying power, either. (The Atlantic online 18/5/22)
“Bode well” with a negative is not incorrect, but “bode ill” is normally used for a negative prediction, and “augur well” for positive, so “do not augur well” would be preferred here. Note: there can be confusion with “auger”, which is a drilling tool.

Among those who hold that opinion are British defence secretary Ben Wallace … (Metro online 8/5/22)
Recast the inversion to see why “are” should be is: British defence secretary Ben Wallace is among those who hold that opinion.

[Putin’s] words will be poured over in Moscow, Kyiv, London and Washington …  (Metro online 8/5/22)

“Me and Lesley were so close. People always said we were like chalk and cheese …” (Hull Live online 2/5/22)
“Like chalk and cheese” means diametrically opposite.

On Tuesday, Taoiseach [Irish Prime Minister] Micheál Martin told the Dáil [legislature] the Russians had been ordered to leave the country because their activities “have not been in accordance with international standards of diplomatic behaviour”, which is accepted shorthand for spying. (independent.ie online 2/4/22)
Code is more appropriate for that diplomatic string of words, which is too long to be called “shorthand”.

“You should have appraised yourself of the situation in relation to this undertaking,” [the defence barrister] suggested. (independent.ie online 30/3/22)
Apprise: inform. Appraise: to set a value on something; evaluate. 

“Let he who tied the bell on the tiger’s neck take it off.” [quoting Chinese president Xi Jinping regarding the Ukraine conflict] (Stel p. 1.21 20/3/22)
Let him.

In a video that was reportedly posted by Ms Ovsyannikova before her protest, she condemned the war again, saying that the blame lied solely with Russian President Vladimir Putin. … [quoting Ms Ovsyannikova]: “The responsibility for this aggression lies with one man — Vladimir Putin.” (extra.ie online 15/3/22)
The blame lay.

This was the first time a British artist [Irish-born Francis Bacon] had been accorded the honour of an exhibition in the USSR since 1917. (Obs New Review p. 32, 23/1/22)
The Brits often claim prominent Irish artists as their own, eg, Sir Bob Geldof.

[Bridget Fonda’s father was] … legendary actor Peter Fonda – who died at age 77 in 1982. (Irish Sun online 29/1/22)
Her grandfather, Henry Fonda, died in 1982. Her father, Peter Fonda, died in 2019. A click of the mouse can find this basic information on the internet.

These are voters who leant their votes to the Conservatives … (Obs 23/1/22 p. 1. 54, “For the Record”)
The Readers’ Editor notes a homophone confusion in the 16 January issue. The chiefly British pronunciation of the past tense of “lean” – “leant” – is the same as the past for “lend”. Using the alternative “leaned” would make clear which verb is meant.

… in one form or another for most of the last two years. … The Amárach Public Opinion Tracker has shown consistently over the past two years … (thejournal.ie online 21/1/22, same article)
“Past” is correct. “Last” means the end: there won’t be any more. Examples: the last two years of the 20th century; the last two years of his life. “The past two years of his life” refers to the two most recent years; he is still alive.

“We have the laboratory data that suggests …” (Stel 16/1/22 p. 1.12 quoting a medical director at Merck, Sharp & Dohme)
Suggest. Apart from computer usage, “data” is normally plural.

“… dangerous offenders line their pockets with claims against those charged with public safety. [Reforms to the Human Rights Act will limit] compensation to those who threaten public safety.” (Stel 16/1/22 p. 1.7 quoting UK Justice Secretary Dominic Raab)
“Compensation for.” “To” means that only those who threaten public safety will be compensated.

pretending to tow the line. (STel 16/1/22 p. 1.2)

[Barbara Walter, author of How Civil Wars Start, was a member of a task force.] “We talked a lot about Africa, Syria [but not the United States] … but I couldn’t believe how closely the US was honing to the same model.” (STim 2/1/21 p. 1.9)
“Honing to” doesn’t make sense here. It should probably be holding to, ie, meeting, being true to.

 A bigger problem, however, are the continuing inroads into Sami territory. (STim 2/1/21 p. 1.10)
“Problem … is.” Or “inroads … are a bigger problem.”

The gym is a place for suffering in silence, not socialising, especially if your preferred topics of conversation or painfully inane. (Extra.ie online 29/12/21)
Are and “or” sound very similar in Ireland, but does the writer really not know that there is a difference in spelling?

And pride over quasi-mythic figures, from Arthur to Boudica, had to be reconciled with the reality that they would have bared more similarity to the Irish, Welsh, and Scots than to the sixteenth and seventeenth-century English. (JSTOR Daily 4/12/19 online)
Reconciled to, ie, had to accept. To reconcile with means to cease hostilities or to compare two sets of data for consistency. Bear, bore, borne more similarity.

In short, Meadows is honing into view, in the Washington Post’s phrase, as the “chief enabler to a president who was desperate to hold on to power”. … Sean Hannity added his own plaintiff appeal … (Guardian online 18/12/21)
Heaving into view. “Hone in on” is often used erroneously for “home in on”, though some dictionaries accept it, but the author seems to have had “hoving” in mind, a frequent mistake for heave, hove, hoven in the nautical sense. Plaintive (sad, mournful) appeal. A plaintiff is a person who brings a complaint to court.

Trump’s penchant for swearing is well-known [sic], to the extent that his four-year presidency prompted soul-searching among some US media outlets about which words could properly be printed. The Guardian [sic] has long had few such scruples. (Guardian online 6/12/21)

The national grid operator said Dublin Bay Power — operated by ESB — in the capital and Whitegate — operated by Bord Gáis — in Cork both ‘tripped’ late on Monday evening, causing the loss of 820 megawatts of electricity generation. (thejournal.ie online 24/11/21)
The m-dash is useful, but two sets in a sentence are confusing. Rewrite using the humble comma: The national grid operator said Dublin Bay Power, operated by ESB in the capital, and Whitegate, operated by Bord Gáis in Cork, both ‘tripped’ late on Monday evening, causing the loss of 820 megawatts of electricity generation.

[My note to thejournal.ie online 16/11/21 received no reply.]
In an article headed “Debunked: No, an Australian politician didn’t resign over bribes from vaccine makers” you say that a claim about bribes “centres around a few key facts”. You then supply one “fact”: “that the former Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, resigned while under criminal investigation for accepting a $65 million (€49 million) bribe from AstraZeneca and Pfizer.” If it’s a fact, why are you debunking it? If it’s not a fact, don’t call it a fact. Call it a false allegation.

… said he would prefer to go to prison than wear a face covering. (independent.ie online 7/11/21)
“Would prefer to go to prison rather than wear” or “would rather go to prison than wear”.

The base was perfectly located quickly to get full and direct reports about developments in Indonesia. (Obs 17/10/21 p. 1.25)
This is a good example of when an infinitive should be split. Ideally, an adverb is located next to the verb, or inside, as in the split verb “was perfectly located”. Immediately following that verb, “quickly” at first glance seems to modify it, but a re-read shows that it belongs to “get”. To quickly get makes this clear. It is a false but widely believed rule that splitting an infinitive is always wrong.

You and X have 43 mutual connections in common. (LinkedIn)
Redundant. “Mutual” means “in common”.

In a popular shopping area around Melbourne’s Chapel Street, masonry debris tumbled from buildings and littered the roads. (thejournal.ie online 22/9/21)
It’s not debris until it has fallen. Delete “debris”.

News of Tiggy’s damages payout comes just days after Police announced that they had ‘not identified evidence of activity that constituted a criminal offence,’ on Martin Bashir’s behalf. (Evoke.ie online 19/9/21)
“Behalf” is squinting. It can mean “for the benefit of” or “representing” or “on the part of”, ie, “done by”. It usually means the first, but here it seems to mean the last.

Monday August 16 … the evening of Tuesday August 18 (Extra.ie online 21/8/21)
So what day was the 17th?

… task force comprised of mutant sharks, killer clowns and the criminally insane. (Obs 1/8/21 p. 31)
Comprising or composed of. “Comprise(d) of” is never correct.

What has been a source of endless conjecture is the lengths Russia was prepared to go to to help Trump win. (Guardian online 15/7/21)
Who at the Guarniad thought the travesty “to go to to” was acceptable? Rewrite: “… the lengths to which Russia was prepared to go in order to help Trump win.”

a critical qualifying criteria (IMoS 11/7/21 p. 37)
Criterion. “Criteria” is plural.

the girls’ adopted parents (IMoS 11/7/21 p. 49)

Temperatures are expected to fall no longer than 13 to 17 degrees generally. … Temperatures will right 25 to 29 degrees generally. (the journal.ie online 19/7/21)
“Fall no farther”. “Longer” can refer to size or time. “Temperatures will rise to.” “Right” suggests that the temperatures were tilted at an angle. Both words used are wildly inappropriate for the context. Editorial nonfeasance.

As a longtime supporter of proper written and spoken English, the misuse of the language on radio and television has been causing me an amount of irritation lately. (IMoS 11/7/21 Letter to Editor p. 26)
Structurally, the introductory phrase modifies the subject, “misuse”. Rewrite: I am a longtime supporter of proper written and spoken English, and the misuse …

Poirier has claimed he initially weakened McGregor’s ankle with a check a few moments before, that led to the full break. (Extra.ie online 11/7/21)
Which led.

[The Eagles] exhorted their fans to “take it easy”, but their heyday was marked by excessive levels of drug-taking and brawling and they broke up in 1980. A reformed version led by founding member Don Henley continues to tour. (STim 4/7/21 Culture p. 53)
They may have reformed by ceasing to throw tv sets out hotel windows, but context suggests that Henley has reconstituted – re-formed – the group.

David Oyelowo’s directorial debut [“The Water Man”] is an artfully weaved tale … (IMoS 4/7/21 Magazine p. 29)
Weave, wove, woven. “Weaved” is the Past Tense and Past Participle when “weave” means to move erratically: “the drunk weaved down the street.”

Alan Turing’s nephew and fellow Sherborne School alumni, author Sir John Dermot Turing … (STel 27/6/21 p. 1.2)
Alumnus. “Alumni” is plural.

[The Pentagon report on UFOs] said there weren’t enough data to indicate … “But we will go wherever the data takes us.” (STel 27/6/21 p. 1.15)
The rarely used “datum” is singular. “Data” is normally considered plural except in the context of electronic media. Oral usage is often treated leniently.

[sub-head] We have been travelling through unchartered waters over the last few months
[text] We have been travelling through uncharted waters over the last few months
(Racing Post online 23/6/21)
“Uncharted”, meaning unmapped, is correct. “Unchartered”, meaning without a legal permit, is a frequent error. “Last” should be past.

If you were cynical, you might say it’s worthwhile for a killer to plead not guilty by reasons of insanity because if a jury agrees that you didn’t know what you were doing, didn’t know it was wrong and couldn’t stop yourself, you may well avoid a conviction for murder. That, however, begs the question that has troubled me since the O’Donnell case: do we know enough about the mind to say that anyone who kills another person, especially a child, in a violent manner could possibly be truly sane? (STim 30/5/21 p. 1.17)
Correct use of the much abused “beg the question” formula, though not an ideal format. “Begs the question of whether we know enough,” without the question mark, would be preferred.

The film hones in on four idiosyncratic characters … (Obs 16/5/21 New Review p. 24)
Homes. Some dictionaries accept “hones in on” as correct.

Did you know that the tallest building in the world comprises of 163 floors? (Microsoft Bing 9/5/21)
Delete “of”.

Just as [Pete Doherty] flaunted his heroin use on the outside, he was flouting our rules on the inside [Wormwood Scrubs]. (IMoS 18/4/21 p. 36)
Correct use of two words frequently confused.

From Whence I Came – The Kennedy Legacy, Ireland and America, by Robert Shrum, Irish Academic Press, 2021
“From Whence I Came” is shocking from a respected publisher, though not surprising on several other books and music discs. “Whence” means “from where”, so “from whence” is redundant.

“It’s like we’re paddling in a sewer of fraud and we need to deal with it. I’m very exorcised about it indeed.” (STel 28/3/21 p. 1.9)
Exercised. “Exorcise” means to drive a demon out of a person.

Gardaí have cornered off a section of a Dublin city area after a horrific late-night incident. (Dublin Live online 4/3/21)

Nobody at any level of the organisations were safe. (Journal.ie online 5/2/21)
“Nobody”, not “organisations”, is the subject of was.

To investigate this contentious territory [British social mobility], Todd tells the stories of seven cohorts, spanning 1880 to the present day, which she calls the pioneers, the precarious generation, the breakthrough generation, the golden generation, the magpie generation, Thatcher’s children and the millennials. (STim 14/2/21 Culture p. 22)
A rare correct use of “cohorts”: each group has a separate identity. In a series comprising this many items, the Harvard comma following the penultimate adds clarity and is preferred: “Thatcher’s children, and the millennials”.

According to Nancy, proning is the process of turning a patient with precise, safe motions from their back onto their abdomen (stomach) so the individual is lying face down. The expert notes that it is especially beneficial in comprised COVID-19 patients with or without ventilator needs … (Hackensack Meridian Health online)
Compromised. Correct example: “healthcare workers must safeguard against endotracheal tube dislodgement, hemodynamic compromise, disconnecting lines, eye injuries …” (Journals.sagepub.com online)

Michigan University (Obs 17/1/21 New Review p. 20)
Further in the article we learn that the academic referred to lives in Ann Arbor, so it must be the University of Michigan, not Michigan State or Central or Eastern or Western or Northern or Lake Superior State or Wayne State University or a host of others. This is the second time I’ve come across a bare “Michigan University”, and I wonder if it’s the same author who is too lazy to look up “Michigan universities” on the internet.

The presentation, writing and jaunty intellect of he and fellow writers … (Obs 17/1/21 New Review p. 25)

However, it was disappointing to then read pages of articles by writers, not one of whom were black. (The Author Autumn 2020 p. 36)
Not one of whom was or none of whom were. “None” can be singular or plural, depending on context, but ”not one” is obviously singular. Two articles by black writers appeared in this issue.

Agnes is eking out a living as a silhouette artist. (IMoS 10/1/21 p. 50)
Brooklyn Nets eke out overtime win against the Atlanta Hawks (The Journal.ie online via Press Association 28/1/21)
Don’t use “eke” if you don’t know what it means. This is one way to convey the meaning in the first citation: scraping a living as a freelance writer  (STim 24/1/21 p. 1.9) “Eke” in the second could be “squeeze”.

Historical records about castrated prisoners suggest that they were less prone to male-pattern baldness so, you know, swings and roundabouts. (IMoS 10/1/21 p. 50)
This is an example of resurrecting an out-of-date expression instead of beating a tired cliché to death.

He was a man, take him for all in all,
I shall not look upon his like again.
Hamlet, I, 2, l. 188
Example of “like” in the entry for “Ilk”.

Excellence is our sole criteria for selection … (Notre Dame Review listing in Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market 2020)
Our only criteria is quality of work … (Pisgah Review listing in Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market 2020)

Middle Grace Fiction … unless we are interesting in publishing it … short synopses of your story (Canadian publisher Simply Read Books listing in Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market 2020)
Grade. Interested. Synopsis.

Children of all ages have poured over the artwork of … (US publisher Star Bright Book – “dedicated to producing the highest quality books for children” – listing in Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market 2020)
Unless you mean pored, keep those clumsy brats with their fizzy drinks away from my drawings.

the son of east European migrants in New York (Stim 24/1/21 p. 1.9)

King was an inveterate better on horses. (Stim 24/1/21 p. 1.9)
Better” is an alternative spelling, but bettor is preferred to avoid confusion.

Alternative options being explored for Leaving Cert [head] “further possible options” … alternative options … a choice between … a number of options … other options … Ministers had ruled out alternatives to the traditional Leaving Cert [text] (ITim 23/1/21 p. 6)
“Alternative options” is redundant. The Department of Education seems to be blameless here. The only instances of “alternative options” appear to be the sub-editor’s and the writers’ paraphrasing. [2 bylines]

Regretfully, we are no longer accepting unsolicited manuscripts. (US Publisher Seven Stories Press listing in Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market 2020)

The shebeen [Irish síbín = speak-easy, unlicensed pub] uncovered in Swords is the latest in a plethora of similar illicit operations raided by Gardai since stringent Level 5 public health restrictions came back into effect shortly after Christmas. (Extra.ie online 25/1/21)
Good use of “plethora”, which frequently usurps a place meant for “a large number”. “Plethora” refers to a glut or over-supply.

“What was put out to the general populous was basically that there was five troublemakers being let go.” (a soccer player quoted in The Journal.ie online 25/1/21)
Populace. “Was” gets a free pass because it’s in a quote, but “populous” is the writer’s error.

ITim – Irish Times

STim – Sunday Times

STel – Sunday Telegraph

Obs – Observer

IMoS – Irish Mail on Sunday

LRB – London Review of Books

MEU – Modern English Usage, H. W. Fowler, 1926.

FMEU – Fowler’s Modern English Usage (second edition), Sir Ernest Gowers, Oxford, 1965.

NFMEU – The New Fowler’s Modern English Usage, Robert Burchfield, Oxford, 1996. This third edition of Fowler’s Modern English Usage is a virtual rewrite.

FDMEUFowlers Dictionary of Modern English Usage (fourth edition), Jeremy Butterfield, Oxford, 2015.

DTW – The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words, Bill Bryson, Penguin, 1984, 1987.

TW – Troublesome Words, Bill Bryson, Penguin, UK, 2002. This is the third edition of The Penguin Dictionary of Troublesome Words (DTW), 1984.

DEU – Dictionary of English Usage, John O. E. Clark, Harrap, London, 1990