Monday, March 26, 2007

"Aarggh!" said the dictionary elf.

A tense moment when Malcolm reached page 9 of this morning's Times (and, yes, it's also on the web edition):
Soldiers on destress leave in Cyprus 'beat up taxi driver'
Now there's a sub-editor who should receive a kicking worse than the one afforded today's duty elf.

What, apart from its ownership, is wrong with The Times these days? Where have the standards gone? Eny fule kno (see footnote) that the line could easily contain the necessary hyphen through a simple edit: "Soldiers de-stressing in Cyprus 'beat up taxi driver' ". This achieves the same in a handful-fewer characters. Alternatively, in the print edition, a slight cropping of the accompanying (and not particularly helpful) photograph would have allowed the use of that single extra character.

Malcolm noticed that the Catalans have a similar problem, neatly solved, with the ambiguous use of double-l. An example is the Estadi Olímpic de Montjuïc in Barcelona, which was later renamed for Lluis Companys, and is now the home of RCD Espanyol. It is, of course, also the venue for Wednesday's Euro 2008 qualifier between up-the-road Andorra and crap England. The double-l in Lluis Companys' name is deliberate. To reach the ground, many attenders will cross Avenguda del Paral.lel, the street at the foot of the Montjuïc, or use the El Paral.lel Metro station at the foot of the funicular. Notice in all of that the precise use of punctuation, helpfully indicating pronunciation. So the Catalans have solved a problem with the simple use of a stop.

Aside from that, Malcolm hopes that any lefty on that visit will take the time to recall just why Lluis Companys deserves to be commemorated. He was President of the Catalan Generalitat and therefore regarded as leader of the 1934 Catalan rising against the centre-right (and clericist) Second Republic. For that he received 30 years in quod. He was released when the Popular Front took power in 1936, and was Minister for the Navy. Significantly, he was the instigator of the Central Committee of Anti-Fascist Militias, bringing POUM and CNT together in an (uneasy) alliance. The full horror was yet to come ...

After Franco's victory, Companys took refuge in France. In due course, he was hoovered up by the Nazis; and in September 1940 was shipped back to Spain, along with Juan Péiro of CNT and the socialist Julián Zugazagoitia. Companys was executed in
Montjuïc Castle.

Malcolm, the cataloguer-elf notes, has well-thumbed copies of Hugh Thomas, and Gerald Brenan besides the new-comer Antony Beever.

"Yes, indeed", says Malcom, and proudly points out original Left Book Club editions of Spain in Revolt (Harry Gannes and Theodore Repard, Gollancz, 1936) and Spanish Testament (Arthur Koestler, "with an Introduction by the Duchess of Atholl", Gollancz 1937).

And now the footnote.

Malcolm believes this much-used phrase is from Molesworth (now, delightfully, on line). What is staggering, however, is the price-tag here. More sensibly, go here.

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