i newspaper, January 6, 2018

I picked out this piece because of the inane phrase ‘spiky marine animals’ in the intro. This is an example of ‘inelegant variation’, as Keith Waterhouse called it: a doomed effort to avoid repeating a word. Some favourites are in The Compleat Sub-Editor section of Style Matters. In this case, the effort would have been avoided by rephrasing the second part of the sentence to read ‘prompting the Australian government to begin a culling programme’.

Then I noticed the last paragraph. Is it possible that anyone on the i newspaper believes that ‘herbivorous’ means ‘meat-eating’? As I thought everyone knows, herbivores eat only plant matter. The word for meat-eating is ‘carnivorous’. Honestly, I am shocked at the ignorance. But I have noticed before that some people take a weird perverse pride in being ignorant of scientific and nature matters, as if it is somehow nerdy to know about these things. What a sad attitude.

PS: The starfish are described as ‘munching’ the corals. I imagine this is meant to be a jokey word, though I don’t see what is amusing about the topic. In any case, as the second par says, the starfish don’t have teeth but exude an enzyme which dissolves the coral. So the use of the word is not only silly but inaccurate. ‘Gobbling’ in the heading is not much better. I would suggest ‘destroying’.


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