Culture clashes

25 May

Oh for goodness’ sake!

I’m sick and tired of these basic errors about Diphilus of Siphnus slipping through. (Diphilus of Siphnus? You know, the Cycladean physician of the third century BC, notable chiefly for being quoted in the writings of Athenaeus of Naucratis).

As this blog has previously observed, if you’re not sure whether you’re reading a broadsheet or a tabloid, a correction like this will tell you. In this case, the distinction is even more obvious when you read the footnote in the context of the paragraph that precedes it:

Only a broadsheet – perhaps only the Tribune – could manage to mention Diphilus of Siphnus in a tart recipe.*

Indeed, the arts and lifestyle pages always seem to bring out the best in a broadsheet corrections column. Away from the legal deletions and mis-spelt names of the news section, the patient erudition that is the hallmark of the readers’ editor can shine through:

At last someone in the building has got a grip on the Queen Mary’s Marriage Act (passed 1554; not repealed, presumably out of an abundance of caution, until 1863).

And along with that historical discernment comes a talent for diplomacy, born of years of placation and mediation between the opinionated. For instance, why say “due to an editing error” when you can signal culpability as gracefully as this?

“Restore” – smoothly done. (You can imagine a puce-faced music critic bellowing down the phone: “Do you think I don’t know the difference??”).

Elsewhere in this elegant intellectual landscape is the cryptic crossword. As these are an almost exclusively broadsheet phenomenon, readers’ editors in the quality press are alone in being required to tackle the rarefied mistakes they throw up:

Very disappointing for all concerned, especially the setter; whereas 9pm is very much in the heart of TV primetime, 11pm is not. It still works as a clue, but you know – it’s not as clever.

It’s only when popular culture – alas – intrudes into the arts section that the spell can be broken. Let’s hope nothing goes wrong when we review that notoriously scabrous animation about foul-mouthed Coloradan schoolchildren:

Oh dear: television always spoils things. Perhaps we’ll have done better with a more middlebrow show about one of America’s founding fathers?

Oh dear.

*Actually, on further review, doesn’t the maths in this correction seem a little odd? If the error is a simple question of confusing the third century AD with the third century BC, how is it that Pliny’s writings can be one century later in the first instance, then three centuries later when corrected? I think there’s a word missing: it should probably read “… three centuries later, not one century earlier.

6 Responses to “Culture clashes”

  1. Picky May 25, 2021 at 12:25 pm #

    Oh dear indeed. And the thing is that often patient erudition isn’t required. If there is one reference that screams out “CHECK” it would be a reference to Diphilus of Siphnus. Not out of patient erudition, but out of ignorance. I’m afraid I’d never heard of the chap.

    Whereas the Burke/Bagehot clanger horrified me at the time. What do they teach them at schools these days? Useful stuff?

    • edlatham May 25, 2021 at 12:50 pm #

      Alas, I fear I got all the way through my education without serious exposure to either Mr B

  2. Lisa Oliver May 25, 2021 at 1:23 pm #

    Thoroughly enjoyed this morning’s read my my friend! Miss you!

    Lisa O


  3. Steve Dunham May 25, 2021 at 2:25 pm #

    “Paint with beaten egg”: no wonder my paintings have come out so poorly. I just cracked the egg open and painted with it.

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