Case 1: The Telegraph doesn't know what ``doubtless'' means

13th December 2001

Filed by: Officer Taylor

The Offence

On the evening of Wednesday 12th December 2001, Liverpool played Fulham at football (that's ``soccer'' for you American types). In their match report the next morning, the Telegraph - one of the UK's most respected newspapers - wrote:

WHEN Sir Alex Ferguson said the Premiership's leading clubs would have to cut one another's throats to give Manchester United any hope of retaining their Premiership crown, he doubtless imagined Fulham would be involved in the bloodshed. Considered second best prior to this contest, they were worth their point at Anfield last night.

[The emphasis on ``doubtless'' is mine.]

The Verdict

The writer was found guilty of misusing the word ``doubtless'' to mean the opposite of what it actually means. He intended to say that Ferguson doubted that Fulham would be involved - something that Ferguson would indeed surely have doubted. But what the writer actually said was the exact opposite: that he didn't doubt that they'd be involved.

The Sentence

It would be nice to take a lenient line on the basis that this is a first offence. Unfortunately, the truth is that the Telegraph has a long history of this kind of stupid mistake, especially in its match reports. Accordingly, we sentence the accused to fall down the steps on the way to the cells.

Next case!

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