The Times, February 14, 2022
What a bonanza!
First, the original error in referring to a koala ‘bear’. This was one of the first things I learned as a sub, but presumably there are several ‘journalists’ at the Times who think it is correct.
Second, the letter writer says: ‘It is not a bear but a marsupial’. He has not got equal tiers in the natural tree. Both bears and koalas are mammals, a class which is divided into three sub-divisions. Two of these are placentalia, which include bears, and marsupialia, which include koalas. So the writer should have said: ‘It is not a placental mammal but a marsupial’. I am sure some readers will think this is hairsplitting, but it isn’t. If you are going to show off about your knowledge you need to get it right. This is the first reason I would not have used this letter.
The second reason is that the writer has mis-spelled ‘wondrous’ as ‘wonderous’. If I had been editing the letters I might have corrected the spelling to save the writer’s blushes, but more likely would have spiked it.
So, to the heading. I can tell you exactly what went through the sub’s mind: ‘Bear, bear, what can I think of to do with bears? Bearing up? Bear-faced? No, I think that is a different spelling, though I’m not sure. Can’t be bothered to look it up though. Bear with me? Hmm . . . Bear necessities! Yes! Nothing to do with the letter but it will do fine!’
My suggested heading:
Koala bears? Strewth!