The Times, February 11, 2020

This is a gopher:

It is a rodent from America.

The word wanted here is ‘gofer’, derived from ‘go for’, meaning a person you can tell to go for something. In other words a dogsbody or assistant.


i newspaper, February 10, 2020

Cancellation means scrapping an event entirely. The only event in this story which was cancelled was the London Winter Run.  All the football and rugby matches were postponed, in other words they will be rescheduled. The horse races were cancelled, but the parlance for this is ‘abandoned’. You could use ‘called off’ for a postponement providing you make it clear that it will go ahead at a later date.


The Times, February 8, 2020

I see this error so often that it will soon be classified by dictionaries as correct. Maybe it already is. Let’s not bother with definitions, let’s just stick any old nonsense down. Let’s not use our wonderfully rich and varied language, let’s reduce it to a couple of thousand words for all occasions.

‘Begging the question’ is a very specific usage. Also known as a circular argument, it involves making a firm conclusion on the basis of an arguable proposition. For example: ‘Why did God make parasitic worms?’ This begs (or avoids) the question of whether God exists. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred the writer actually means to say ‘this raises/leads to the question . . .’ In this case the writer might have said: ‘ . . . making me wonder if they know something we don’t.’


i newspaper, February 6, 2020

If I were a chief sub, and this had been sent to me, I would have been pretty cross. Without giving the new membership rates, the increases mentioned are meaningless. I suppose given that the prices are going up by 6 per cent and this will mean an extra £7.80 a year on a joint membership, a reader could do some mental arithmetic or get out the  calculator. It is true that the National Trust press release and its website carefully conceals the new rates, but let me introduce a concept which is clearly unknown to many reporters and subs these days – asking a question. Surprising as it may seem, not every story arrives fully formed with every detail in the right place, especially if it is bearing bad tidings such as a price increase. It did not take me long to contact the NT and find out that the new joint membership rate from March 1 is £127.80 a year.