Peter Rhodes on a chilling email, disappearing datum and a dilemma for Darwin

A reader, in contact with a Covid-19 patient, tells me he received the standard NHS test-and-trace email. The first step is to create a password to access the system. But if your chosen password is too short, too long or not strong enough, this is the message you get back: “One error prohibited this individual from being saved.” That could spoil your whole day.

What would Darwin think?
What would Darwin think?

Our changing language. Here's a strange misuse of English which is creeping into broadcasting. A reporter tells us “It's impossible to understate the impact.” What they mean to say is “impossible to overstate the impact.” Watch out for similar.

The pandemic has been an opportunity for some folk to show off their education by reminding us that the word “data” is plural, therefore the correct construction is “the data are” and not “the data is.” The curious thing is that you rarely hear the singular form, “datum,” which must be in danger of dying out.

One of Britain's biggest and rarest spiders has been discovered on a military training area in Surrey. Yet another good reason for equipping our squaddies with big, heavy boots.

The arachnid in question is the great fox-spider. A night-time hunter, it is up to two inches across and has eight huge eyes. Mike Waite, the naturalist who found it, says: “It's a gorgeous spider, if you're into that kind of thing.” That's one big spider and one huge “if.”

I told the tale last week of how my father was not allowed to pay for my school meals because, with five children in education, he was assumed to be poor, even though he was well-off. The school refused his cheque. A reader reports a similar experience some years ago in Dudley when, because he and his wife had three children under the age of four, they qualified for free babycare support. He had “a decent job with a decent income” and was willing to pay, but the system wouldn't allow it. And so, without paying a penny, the family acquired two student nursery nurses for the next two years. Today, of course, public spending is much better controlled. Ahem.

How do we define success? Reaching the pinnacle of your profession? Raising a family to be proud of? Achieving inner peace and contentment? A few days ago, three men had to be rescued by firefighters in Essex after getting stuck in an industrial-size tumble dryer. The authorities reported: “While two of them had successfully climbed in, the third had got his ankles trapped in the door.” Successfully . . ?

I have no idea why three grown men would climb into a tumble dryer. Mind you, I found a website claiming: “Hoover Dynamic Next tumble dryer is perfect for a large-sized family.”

We should celebrate this trio's survival, while worrying about their DNA getting into the nation's gene pool. I'm sure Mr Darwin would agree.

Most Read

Most Read

Top Stories

More from the Express & Star

UK & International News