Image libraries: a cautionary tale

A cautionary tale concerning image libraries.

On the magazine I work for, we do use photographers but we also buy some of our pictures from a popular image library for £60 a pop. Recently, to illustrate a feature about debt, we downloaded a (presumably manipulated) photograph of a mousetrap that had as its base a credit card - metaphorically showing the dangers of credit. I would love to show you the image here on the blog but that would cost me £60, so I'm afraid you'll have to use your imagination.

Anyway, we placed the credit card/mousetrap image on page and it wasn't until much later, when I was doing the final corrections, that I noticed the name on the credit card: Mr Hugh Jassdetter. Read it quickly and it sounds suspiciously like 'huge-assed debtor'. A little joke on the part of whoever originally Photoshopped the image? I think so. And one that all our proofreaders had failed to spot.

Our art guru quickly changed the name on the credit card to 'Mr Hugh Dassdetter' - which we felt was less likely to cause offence among our more sensitive readers. Another embarrassment narrowly avoided by the production desk...

The first Friday roundup

When I started this blog with Apus almost a year ago, I planned to write one post every weekday but was afraid I’d struggle to find sufficient material. As it turned out, that wasn’t a problem – and nowadays my main concern is lack of time rather than lack of subject matter. Often I would love to blog about a particular topic but time constraints mean I have to let it go.

To address this, today I’m introducing a regular Friday round-up of everything that has interested me in the preceding week but that I haven’t had time to blog about in depth. Let me know what you think...
  • Ridger, FCD is a regular commenter on this blog so I’d just like to give a plug to her own blog, The Greenbelt. Nothing to do with the music festival, there’s some good stuff about language, evolution, politics and, er, birds. You can even find out what FCD stands for (well, I didn't know).
  • And just out of interest, the Engine Room has had mentions on the Visual Thesaurus and the blog Words at Work. I've added the latter to our blogroll, along with Fritinancy, which I believe used to be called Away With Words. Anyway, they're both worth checking out.

Typo of the week: sweet

A simple typo (or possibly spelling mistake) made the subs' desk chuckle today. One of our writers submitted a feature containing the rhetorical question:

Would all your customers dessert you?

Maybe this is what it means to put someone on ice...

PS There's no picture to accompany this post because my "organization's Internet use policy restricts access at this time" to my favourite free image library, As we also sometimes use Morguefile to source images for our publications, I can only imagine that this situation will be rectified shortly...

Update: It's rectified. So here is a picture of a dessert:

Names: Robin for a girl

Sarah has emailed us a nice little name-based anecdote:

A work friend of mine told me a story yesterday that made me laugh. He said his sister, who was a bit of a 70s child, had always really liked the name 'Robin' for a girl. Throughout their childhood she'd always said that if she had a baby girl when she grew up then she'd call her Robin.

It turns out that she did get married and have a baby girl, but had to rethink the name she'd chosen as the guy she married had the surname Graves!

Our other posts about names:
Mr Conman
What's in a name?

Word of the day: drunkorexia

We haven't featured a good portmanteau for a while, and I have Sarah to thank for pointing out this one: drunkorexia. It's the phenomenon of women "skipping meals more and more in order to drink alcohol and remain slim". That's according to the Marie Claire website, anyway, which I have to point out I don't read that often.

And yes, March is evidently 'alcohol month' on the Engine Room.

Anyone for seconds?

Verbing: I'll just missed-call you

I overheard a great bit of verbing in the pub yesterday evening:

I'll just missed-call you

(Two girls were swapping contact details. The first girl gave her mobile phone number to the second girl, who called that number and immediately hung up - allowing the first girl to get the second girl's number from the missed call.)

Back to work tomorrow, so these pub-based anecdotes will be coming to an end, I'm afraid.

PS. The cost of a pint last night: £1.60ish (it was a Samuel Smith's pub). Oh and sorry about the lack of pictures on the blog this weekend, but I've been using dial-up...

Student journalism and Enter Shikari

I'm spending the long bank holiday weekend up in Derby.

Yesterday evening, while waiting in the pub for someone, I flicked through a copy of local student magazine Dusted. It wasn't the most exciting read, but then I'm not studying at the University of Derby.

However I was amused by an interview with the band Enter Shikari - albeit for the wrong reasons. I especially liked this bit:

Making it into one of the backstage rooms [in Rock City, Nottingham] I'm greeted with a warm welcome by all of Enter Shikari, who easily look like they could fit into the backdrop of a normal night in [Derby club] Bluenote. I sit down ready to do the interview but just before I'm about to start, Rory (Clewlow, guitar and backing vocals) offers me a beer. A little shocked, I take one and thank him.

Right... so you're a student interviewing a rock band. In the evening. In a rock club. A little before they go on stage. One of the band members offers you a beer... and you're shocked.

I have two questions for you: why are you shocked? And why on earth are you telling me this?

I was never a student journalist. Perhaps you can tell.

PS. The cost of a pint last night: £2.80.

Survey: can you identify the Moon?

I don't mean to keep kicking free paper Metro, but I am baffled by the results of a survey it reports on today. The findings include:

  • "Nearly three-quarters [of children surveyed] can't identify the Moon in the night sky"
  • "57% cannot identify Mars"
  • "44% cannot identify Saturn"

Hmm. Fewer children can identify the Moon in the sky than they can Mars and Saturn. A little odd, don't you think?

Then again, the survey was "to mark the launch of the new Power Rangers DVD" so I don't put a great deal of faith in it.

In case you don't know: the Moon

Metro's online version of the story: it doesn't include all the strange findings above but there is an amusing correction...

Press releases: BVRLA / BVLRA

I am impressed by this press release from the BVRLA. In the first sentence it calls itself the British Vehicle Leasing and Rental Association – wouldn't that be the BVLRA? It's a bit difficult to read the image below so click to see an enlarged version.

Now I don't know much about media relations, but I would assume that getting your own organisation's name right is probably a good first step.

The £4 pint of beer is here. Maybe

Not for the first time recently, I've been reading about the soaring price of a pint of beer here in the capital. This time it was on the front page of today's Metro free paper:

In London the average price of a pint – at £4.06 – is dearer than a hit of heroin

I don't know much about the price of heroin, but neither do I know any pubs in London that charge £4 a pint. The pubs near where I live (a fairly nice bit of Zone 3) charge around the £3 mark; you might pay £3.30 in a gastropub.

Ah, but what about all those expensive bars – surely they push the price up? Possibly, but many of the swanky ones sell bottles, not pints, and the ones that do sell expensive pints will be more than compensated for by cheapo chains such as JD Wetherspoon (no relation) that charge nearer the £2 mark. And for every pub that sells a £2 pint, there must be another that sells a £6 pint to make the average £4.

So my question to any Londoners out there is: where are these £4-a-pint (or more) pubs? Or is the Metro article just shoddy journalism? Sorry, I know that's two questions...

What price a pint?

PS I can imagine that many of our American readers will respond to this post with shock and/or smugness...

Scam emails: motherless baby's home

I know Apus likes email scams and their telltale strange use of English, so the following extract (from an email I received entitled 'DEAR BELOVED FRIEND') is for him.

I am Mrs. Gloria Caldwell from LONDON, I am 58 years old, I am deaf and suffering from a long time cancer of the breast, which also affected my brain. From all indication my condition is really deteriorating, and my doctors have courageously advised me that I may not live beyond the next two months, this is because the cancer stage has reached a critical stage. I was brought up in a motherless baby's home

I love that – 'motherless baby's home' instead of orphanage. And how courageous of the doctors to advise her that she is about to die.

I suppose I should show more sympathy, seeing as Gloria is from LONDON like me...

Roget: 'headline writers and journalists'

There was an interesting article on Peter Roget, creator of the thesaurus, in The Times' Books section yesterday. I took a little exception at the following though:

At its worst, [a thesaurus] is a crutch, for crossword enthusiasts, students desperate to imply a little learning in an essay crisis, headline writers, nervous after-dinner speakers and, yes, journalists.

Headline writers and journalists? All the headline writers I've ever met have been journalists. Perhaps Ben Macintyre, who is the author of this piece, means 'headline writers and other journalists'.

In the same way, it bugs me when people (including some of my colleagues) refer to 'production staff and journalists'. Sub editors and designers can be journalists too!

Wikipedia agrees with me on this.

Guantanamo Bay: Sami Al-Hajj

Is it just me, or is anyone else a little confused as to why the Guantanamo Bay detention camp in Cuba is referred to as Gitmo? Shouldn't it be Gutmo, Gatmo or even Gtomo? I woke up this morning with this question on my mind so I have evidently been blogging/subbing too much recently.

Anyway, I can only assume that Gitmo is a play on the word 'git', considering some of the stories that have emerged regarding the treatment of prisoners.

Not wanting to make (too much) light of a serious issue, I'd like to direct you to to the website Prisoner 345. This focuses on the plight of Al Jazeera cameraman Sami Al-Hajj (pictured), who is being held as an 'enemy combatant' at Guantanamo and who has been on hunger strike for more than a year now.

He is the only journalist currently 'detained' at Gitmo but that is still one too many, and I find his story shocking.

Cheltenham: Starzaan is a class horse

The reason I didn't post on the blog yesterday was because I'm currently at Cheltenham, winning money on the horses.

The Cheltenham Festival Guide 2008 has a section entitled 'What the Experts Think?'. Never mind the exclamation mark, I was taken by this quote from Hughie Morrison, trainer of Starzaan:

Starzaan is a class horse who has all sorts of problems with legs, wind etc

Doesn't sounds very class to me. I have a mental picture of Starzaan (pictured below) limping and farting his way across the finishing line...

Daytime English

Being a pensioner I have lots of time to enjoy daytime TV which, besides making your brain leak out your ears, offers some lovely eye-watering use of English. F'rinstance...

From Under The Hammer, a daily look a house buying: "We have a handy local shop nearby."

From Grand Designs, a daily look at house building: "It's a great example of greenification."

From one of the may copdocs: "...the never-ending war against criminals and law-breakers..."

Much nicer was a phrase used by an American lady in a news report: "I was breath-taken."

And I was taken by a phrase coined by a cabaret singer during a documentary, Benidorm Unpacked, in which he bemoaned the total lack of job security with the warning: "That's why your name's in chalk - not lights!"

And while not strictly relevant to this blog, I have to add that it was heartwarming to see this guy, who had lost a leg and an arm aged 10 when he was run over by a train. His remaining leg's still broken and in a caliper. Sorry for himself? Not a bit of it. He's married to a charming and exquisite Swedish blonde who is clearly devoted to him. They have a couple of lovely kids and, with work being short in Spain, are heading off to, of all places, Bulgaria in search of work.

Cool or what?

Catholic Church updates list of mortal sins

I was quite amused by a recent story in London free paper Metro regarding the Roman Catholic Church's updated list of mortal sins:

According to the Catholic faith, they must be confessed to a priest and if not absolved or forgiven, will lead to a person's soul being condemned to hell.

But now genetic experimentation, tampering with the order of nature, pollution, social injustice, causing poverty, excessive wealth and drug abuse have been added.

There's something deliciously ironic about the Catholic Church speaking out against excessive wealth...

On another note, the new list of sins "was announced after a week-long confession refresher course for priests". Would that be a confesher?

BBC News: town sex assault 'allegation'

I am a little confused by a recent BBC News story entitled 'Girl victim of town sex assault'. It begins:

Police are investigating an allegation that a 17-year-old girl was sexually assaulted in County Down.

The teenager was the victim of a serious sexual assault on Friday at about 2330 GMT in the Greencastle Street area of Kilkeel.

The headline and the second paragraph are confident that the girl was the victim of a sexual assault, whereas the first par uses the don't-sue-us word 'allegation'. If the reporter is so sure of himself, why not write 'Police are investigating the sexual assault of a 17-year-old girl'?

In fact, I would go so far as to suggest that using the word 'allegation' here, if there is indeed no doubt that the assault took place, is offensive to the victim.

Coke: good for wellbeing and vitality

We've had an 'Occupational Health and Safety Wellbeing and Vitality Day' at work today. Catchy title, huh? Perhaps they should have just called it OHAS WAVD.

Among the attractions were free bottles of Diet Coke and Coke Zero (pictured right, with model), and a prize draw to win a hamper containing a big slab of chocolate. Mmm, healthy.

On the plus side, I had my blood pressure tested and it was found to be normal. That's got to be a first for a sub editor...

World's longest URL?

As part of my increasing involvement in the web side of things here at work I have been spending some of my time recently fixing mistakes and inconsistencies on our website. Unfortunately I work on a Mac and the less than perfect web-based system I need to access to make my corrections only runs properly on a PC.

Rather than running up and down the office between my Mac and the spare PC all day, I have been writing proof marks on a printout of the web page in question and giving this to a friendly PC operator to make the corrections for me. Very high-tech, huh?

As well as the usual typos and lapses in style, one unique element of subbing (or indeed, copy editing) for the web is fixing broken hyperlinks. Whenever I have found a broken link I have been writing the correct URL on the paper proof for the PC operator to tap in for me.

This was working well – until I came across a URL on a certain government website that went on... and on... and on. I copied it into Word and did a quick character count only to find that this web address was a whopping 362 characters long. That's definitely a personal record.

Anyone beat that?

Names: Mr Conman

We've blogged before about silly names, but today a press release came through at work written by a Mr Conman. Although I assume this name doesn't have a stress on the final syllable, unlike the word 'conman', it is still amusingly appropriate for someone who works in PR...

New media: JD is the Champion

I know it says at the top of the blog that I'm a sub-editor (copy editor if you like) on a weekly UK magazine, but that's not strictly true. We've had a restructure recently – which is how Apus managed to engineer his departure – and now I'm a sub editor on two weekly UK magazines (although much more on one than the other).

I am also spending an increasing amount of time working on our 'web publication'. Since the restructure each member of the production desk has been given 'championship' of a particular 'brand', and I am 'Web Champion'. I even have this written in the first paragraph of my job description. With initial caps, no less. And sorry about all the 'inverted commas', but I don't normally use these buzzwordy phrases.

As a result of my increasing involvement with the –ahem– web publication, I can imagine that this blog is going to be addressing new-media-related issues more and more. You may see this as a good or a bad thing, but if it does interest you I would like to recommend the blog Engagement 101. It even uses phrases like "the new journalism tools afforded by the Web 2.0 world"...

One of my duties as Web Champion is to write a daily blog post summarising the events of the day in a particular industry. So that makes me, sort of, a professional blogger. On a part-time basis, at least. Must have been all that practice here on The Engine Room...

Julie Walters: good message, bad timing

That fine thesp Julie Walters is featuring in a public safety TV ad (pictured below) reminding viewers to check their household smoke alarms. The message is direct: don't brew up during this ad break, check your smoke alarm instead... do it now or put your loved ones' lives at risk.

But should this ad be broadcast at 1am? Sometimes it's not what you say, it's when you say it.

Adverts: LEZ

The Engine Room isn't the only site to suffer from inappropriate context-sensitive adverts.

The magazine I work for has a sister website and today our web editor was complaining that, due to its ongoing coverage of the London Low Emission Zone (or LEZ – and I know you know where this is going), it has been displaying adverts for lesbian dating services. Among other things...