Monday, March 09, 2009

Don't these people have editors?

Once more from The Telegraph, on the subject of Eamonn Butler's new book, The Rotten State of Britain. [Emphasis mine.]
Mr Butler also claims national debt is running at £4.6 billion, or £175,000 per household, not £729 billion (£29,000 per household) as the Government claims.

Um... Do you mean £4.6 trillion, perchance?

One suspects that the book's figures may have been partly overtaken by events: after all, even the ONS is claiming National Debt to rise in excess of £2 trillion...


Anonymous said...

European billion (10^12) for one and Septic billion (10^9) for the other, perhaps? Forgive my ignorance, but what happened to the milliard?

I have five billion marks at home - 5,000,000,000,000. Nazis wouldn't let me change them into Euros.

wv: atypsych (slight variation on atypisch, but not bad)

DaveA said...

We now fit in with the septics. 1,000,000,000 = billion and 1,000,000,000,000 = trillion
1,000,000,000,000,000 = quadrillion I guess.

Pedants corner.

bella gerens said...

That is a truly terribly-written review of Butler's book. Choppy sentences, paragraphs without any kind of transition between them, stupid errors like the one you flag up and the 'seven-month year old girl,' and absolutely no commentary from anyone the book actually criticises. The tone couldn't be more dismissive; the only way Christopher Hope, Whitehall Editor, could have given the book shorter shrift would have been to write, 'This book makes my masters uncomfortable.'

I could have done a better job than this, and I've only read the first 100 pages.

Anonymous said...

Glad someone picked up on this, it's been repeated on blogs everywhere and doing my nut! I thank you.

journo said...

"Don't these people have editors?"

Pedantic I know, but copy checking was the job of 'sub-editors', and the dead-tree press has just about completely dispensed with them.

Same as everything these days - you get what you pay for and we can't afford much so we get crap quality.

David Gillies said...

This is a basic problem with journalists - they are almost to a man (and woman) products of the Arts/Humanities branch of higher education, which means they are functionally innumerate. They have no sense of magnitude, or probability, or significance. In short, they do not have the sort of advanced bullshit detector that a career in science or engineering equips you with. The 'gatekeepers' couldn't detect a numerical error if it slithered up their leg and bit them on the plums. They're the sort of people who have to reach for a calculator to find 23 × 17.

For what it's worth, £4.6 billion is roughly the amount that the monocular Autist-in-Chief and his badger-faced ventriloquist's dummy have pissed up against the wall since starting work on Monday morning and breaking for lunch on Wednesday.

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