Picture of a judge's wigThe Judge RANTS!Picture of a judge's wig

Date: 10/03/17

Dash It!

When using a language as infinitely malleable, protean and slippery as English (which attributes are the reason why it is the world's natural language for Business), it really is important in order to avoid unnecessary ambiguity for some care to be taken. This isn't mere pedantry: the entire meaning of a sentence or sentiment can be altered by such things as dangling participles and mangled modifiers (at which both the BBC and the Independent have proven themselves adept down the years); or by putting in punctuation where it has no business being (I plead guilty to this myself, prone as I am to using commas as if they were pebbledash; or, as an alternative, echoing Henry James, of whose writing it was said that you could hear the clash of parentheses five blocks away); or leaving essential punctuation out altogether.

It is this last category which has drawn my ire today. I mean, this story is bad enough in itself, reporting as it does the determination of St. Theresa of the Little Englanders and her pea-brained successor Amber Rudd to drag a couple of rape victims through the courts in order to protect the Metropolitan Police from responsibility for its own serial imcompetence.

But its import certainly isn't helped by a piece of careless punctuation in its third paragraph. It reads:

"The pair [...] were raped by [...] a black cab driver"

At the top of the piece is a picture of the perpetrator.

He doesn't look black to me.

For want of a hyphen therefore (in between the 'black' and the 'cab', in case you were a bit slow, indicating that the phrase 'black cab' was being used in a compound-phrase attributive sense), a key part of the meaning has not merely been lost but turned on its head.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I must dash.