Coral alarm dwarfs pact to cut gases

Ambiguous English

Context and ambiguity determine what we seen, and errors occur. Private Eye shows signs like “Parking Only For St. Peter & St Paul” outside a church of that name.  Or ‘We Feed Hamsters To Horses’ (on a pet supermarket).

Context means everything. Consider ‘the train ran into a tunnel’ and ‘the train ran into a cow’. Consider the difference between a Childrens’ Cancer Charity and a Childrens’ Literacy Charity. A chicken stew and an Irish stew. An apple pie and a cottage pie.

Items I have found include:

  • Ditch Failed Child Support Agency. (Headline.)
  • Lawyers Wine & Oyster Bar. (A bar in Cambridge.)
  • East Anglian Ass Of Anaesthetists. (On an address list.)
  • Coral alarm dwarfs pact to cut gases.”(Guardian, 13 Nov 1998.)
  • ‘Bush pledges to fight gun criminals’ CEEFAX 14 May 2001
  • “Farmers who have turned to fish have been warned to look out for otters.” (The Editor, Guardian.) Those who have turned to dragons should be on the lookout for Siegfried.
  • Straw to break panda’s back’. (The then Home Secretary Jack Straw being tough on large cuddly animals?)
  • The Independent, 15 July 2000 juxtaposed ‘Man shot dead in Bradford Riot’ and ‘Media barons prepare for a duel to the death’.

BBC News Online, Latest had “Three Palestinians killed in West Bank and Gaza shooting. More soon.” The ‘More soon’ formula is used all over, but sometimes has a double meaning.

Amazon also told me after I had rented a Ken Loach film about Spain that “People who enjoyed Land and Freedom also enjoyed the Spanish Civil War’. Probably not.


Copyright Gwydion M. Williams

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