Sunday, June 19, 2011

Evening clouds and daylight robbery

click photo to enlarge
Reading the Guardian newspaper yesterday I was brought up short by the caption to a photograph. It should have been the photograph itself that caught my eye, one in the series "Unsettling animal picture of the week" showing a swan in the middle of the road with outstretched wings appearing to be halting the progress of a huge lorry. But, the image was not as strong as usual and it was the text that drew my attention. It said, "Swan v machine: no one knows if the bird was protesting at the lorry's carbon footprint or just trying to rob its cargo, but it did hold the traffic up for a while." It was the use of the word "rob" in place of the correct word, "steal", that caught my eye. That, I thought, is the work of a twenty-something year old, because I've seen and heard this use that I condsider a misuse - a number of times before.

Perhaps it's my age, but I can accept solecisms of this sort from the man in the street and casual writers, but I can't take it from the journalist of a serious newspaper. Moreover, being a serious daily the Guardian has its own "style guide" aimed at preventing such errors. Was the distinction between rob and steal mentioned, I wondered? It was, and here's what it says: "you rob a person or a bank, using force or the threat of violence; but you steal a car or a bag of money". Reference to the in-house authority would have allowed the writer to choose the correct word. But therein lies the problem with dictionaries, style guides and all the other works that seek to improve our use of written and spoken English: you have to aware of your limitations and the areas in which you might err before you can check them.

All this has very little to do with my evening photograph of the City of London seen from the south bank of the River Thames near Tower Bridge. I post it for the clouds (see yesterday's post). However, if you wanted to make a connection with the subject of robbing and stealing you could argue that the City is the location of the biggest and most audacious gang of thieves in the UK, one that robbed the populace of much of its wealth, and which, through the cuts being implemented by a supine and cowardly government to make good the City's losses, continues to steal from us to prevent themselves having to bear the pain of their own wrongdoing and ineptitude.

photograph and text (c) T. Boughen

Camera: Lumix LX3
Mode: Aperture Priority
Focal Length: 12.8mm (60mm/35mm equiv.)
F No: f2.8
Shutter Speed: 1/200
Exposure Compensation: -0.33 EV
Image Stabilisation: On