The Grey Cardigan 07.08.06

WE MUST return to the literary car crash that is Liz-fucking-Jones and her preposterous marriage. In recent weeks we have been treated to the news that Mr Jones had broken a lampshade, that Mrs Jones has had a breast reduction, was borderline anorexic and hasn't worn a bra since she was 12, that she declined sex the other Saturday morning (in the wake of the lampshade trauma), and that the mad woman's four cats rank clearly higher on the evolutionary scale than the poor sap she married ever will.

Why are we still falling for this crap? It's Beckhamesque: a very public marriage of convenience that promotes her career and his new novel, while gullible saps lap up the supposed anguish of their daily lives. For all we know, Mrs and Mrs Jones (for that is surely the nomenclature) cuddle up on the sofa every evening with a cup of cocoa and the latest from Emmerdale.

Instead this sad soap opera is spread out before us across acres of newsprint. I had hoped that perhaps the adverts might remain an angst-free zone. Not so. Popping up with horrible regularity the other weekend was Mrs Jones, or a dead spit for her, blithely promoting the benefits of a kitchen company — and presumably one that does built-in testicle mincers.

SOMETIMES WE win small victories. Sainsbury's has agreed to correct its "10 items or less" signs in stores to read "10 items or fewer".

There really is no need for confusion on this simple principle. We use "fewer" when dealing with things that can be counted or with plural nouns; we use "less" to refer to a degree or to uncountable nouns.

Hence "I have fewer freelance contracts because of cost-cutting" and "I therefore have less hair than I had last year". Easy.

Even the BBC manages to get it right on one of its World Service websites, although it seems unable to get the message across to its legions of UK-based TV and radio presenters.

These bastards are also masters of the subject-free sentence, a particular personal bug-bear.

You can hear it on a daily basis: "A British tourist has been injured in a bomb blast in Turkey. It happened …"

It… it? What? Tell me. Give me fully functioning sentences with a subject, a verb and a noun. It's not too much to ask, surely?

I'M BECOMING increasingly confused by The Guardian, once the right-on repository of leftie values. In a curiously snide diary piece, John Henley belittles Ruth Kelly for appearing on television wearing "an ill-fitting Hi-de-Hi-style blazer and hair that looked… like it had been dragged through the proverbial hedge backwards".

Two days later, Michele Hanson devotes four pages of G2 to a dissection of surgically-enhanced actresses complete with Daily Mailstyle before and after pictures. Curious.

Has Lord Dacre pulled off a secret putsch? I don't know, but I think we should be told.

TROUBLED TIMES at the Evening Beast. After disastrous ABC figures, it appears that the carefully thought-out strategy of dumbing down, eliminating anyone over the age of 50 from our pages, abandoning district offices, ditching geographic editions, sacking long-serving journalists, printing overnight and surrendering any pretence of being a live, daily news provider isn't playing too well with our few remaining readers.

Red-socked twats, dribbling beancounters and assorted clipboard carriers mill about, busily rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic.

The Boy Wonder, momentarily refreshed from his fortnight in Tuscany, has now developed the thousand-yard stare previously seen on Vietnam veterans. The sulphurous smell of abject failure infests the newsroom. Watch this space.

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