The Times, October 26, 2017

This couple are called Hill, so they are the Hills. They live in the Hills’ house. I think the problem with this may have arisen because the name ‘Hills’ is also common. If you switch to a name which is never plural, such as Ashworth, you can see that you would not say the Ashworths’s home, but the Ashworths’ home. (If the couple were called Hills, they would be the Hillses, and they would live in the Hillses’ house. See the entry on plural names in the general topics section of Names in Style Matters.)

The Daily Express also had problems with the name:

Daily Express, October 26, 2017

There is no earthly reason why there should be an apostrophe here.


i newspaper, October 25, 2017

Obvious question (1): How does Matthew’s family afford all this? Answer: Loganair gives him free flights.

i newspaper, October 25, 2017

Obvious question (2): How long is the border? Answer: 1,900 miles.

When I was a young sub, finding the answer to a question that was a glaring hole in a story involved going to the library, asking for a reference book or folder of cuttings then searching through same. Now it is literally a matter of seconds to find what you need on the internet. There is no excuse for sending through lazy stories like these.


. . . some time later . . .

The Times, October 25, 2017

The word ‘chthonic’ may be in common use in the Times offices, but even so the writer should know that it will be unfamiliar to 99.9 per cent of readers, and therefore must be explained. However that would be a  problem here, because as so often when someone tries to look clever by using an obscure word, he or she gets it wrong and looks a perfect idiot. The technical meaning of ‘chthonic’ is ‘subterranean’ but it is associated with underworld spirits and deities. Not the association that would be wanted in a Holocaust memorial, I imagine.

PS In the intro, ‘create’ means ‘to make a new one’ so ‘new’ is redundant. It would be a lot cleverer to get a simple thing like that right.


The Times, October 25, 2017

Writing headlines requires an ear for scansion. ‘Masters of the universe’, as well as being a well-known expression, has a rhythm which ‘masters of universe’ does not. The annoying thing about this heading is how little it would take to make it good – simply move ‘the’ so that it reads:

How City’s masters of the universe
failed and undermined industry


Daily Telegraph, October 25, 2017

‘Upmost’ is a synonym of ‘uppermost’, meaning ‘the top’ in physical terms, eg ‘the upmost branches of the tree’. The word wanted here is ‘utmost’, meaning ‘greatest’ or ‘most extreme’, which is applied to sentiments such as respect.

Daily Telegraph, October 25, 2017

‘Discrete’ means separate or distinct when something is divided into parts, eg ‘the music was in three discrete sections’. Thus ‘indiscrete’ means ‘not in distinct parts’, which is not a word you often need, though presumably it applies to Kim Cattrall. The word wanted here is ‘indiscreet’, meaning she had talked about things she maybe should have kept quiet. There are many pairs of words which look and sound similar but mean quite different things, and unless you are certain you have the right one, look it up or look silly.


The Times, October 23, 2017

World’s most expensive footballer subject to same rules as other players shock! Silly, isn’t it? It would be a story if he had been let off because of his status. And if you are going to say why he was booked the second time, you have got to say what the first offence was (it was dissent).

A perfectly good start would be:

Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, was sent off three minutes from time in last night’s 2-2 draw between Marseille and Paris Saint Germain.

The £199million Brazilian striker got two yellow cards within two minutes, the first for dissent and the second for a retaliatory push against  . . .



She was in southern France celebrating her boss’ birthday.

Mail Online, October 23, 2017

This shows abysmal ignorance, even by Mail Online’s uniquely low standards. (It appears in both the standfirst and the story, so it is not a typing error.) Presumably the person responsible thought that because ‘boss’ ends in ‘s’ it is a plural, so should be treated like, for example, ‘the drivers’ cars were all towed away’. Of course ‘boss’ is singular, and is treated like any other singular noun, adding an apostrophe plus s, so it should be ‘her boss’s birthday’.

An exception is the expression ‘for goodness’ sake’, which means ‘for the sake of goodness’ so needs an apostrophe. Technically it should be ‘for goodness’s sake’, but it has long been established in its familiar form.


A potentially fatal jellyfish-like creature has made a “very unusual” appearance on a Manx beach.
The Portuguese man-of-war was found near Langness in Castletown on Wednesday.

BBC News Online, October 19, 2017

Yet another Portuguese man o’war story. The problem with this one is that although ‘fatal’ is an adjective meaning deadly, it is not an exact synonym and applies only to events or actions, not to animals. You could have a ‘fatal error’, a ‘fatal accident’ or a ‘fatal snake-bite’, but not a ‘fatal snake’.