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As men, we are all equal in the presence of death*

12/06/2012

A newspaper death notice is surely the one documentary event marking a person’s brief presence on the planet which demands to be accurate.  We had a recent death in the close family, and I was rightly admonished for the way in which the positioning of a single adjective might have led to misunderstanding. We all knew what I meant, but there was a chance that an outsider might parse it as deliberately cold-hearted. Remember the umpteenth corollary to Murphy’s Law: “If it can be misinterpreted, it will be”.

The following notice (with identifying features blanked) appeared in the ‘Hatched, Matched & Despatched’ section of yesterday’s Times:

Can you spot the – er, shall we say – area of gender confusion? Whoever was responsible for this – distracted family or slipshod undertaker – it would not have been The Times. I can tell you with some authority that it only prints precisely what it receives.

* Sententiae: Maxim 1, by Publilius Syrus. (A morte semper tantundem homines absumus)

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