Dept. of Oops

The Economist is, almost inarguably, a great magazine.

That doesn’t mean it doesn’t make the occasional mistake. Consider this lead from a recent article about a huge Mexican mining company called Fresnillo, which was recently listed on the London Stock Exchange:

In the hills north east of Mexico City it is not uncommon to find Cornish pasties for sale.

They meant to write “pastries” but, considering that miners work really hard, they might also be hoping to encounter the kind of people who go shopping for pasties.

I have made plenty of similar errors myself. I read this mistake in the print edition of The Economist and fully expected it to be corrected in the online edition — but, as of when I included the link above, it hadn’t been.

Regardless, correcting typos is one of the great benefits of online journalism — which, according to Steve Ballmer, will be the only kind of journalism in 10 years.

Here’s another oops I saw recently, in a letter from a person hoping to be elected to a board whose identity I’ll keep secret. This is the sentence that caught my eye:

One of my goals in being on the Board is to increase the transparency of the Board, i.e. make it more easy for everyone to communicate.

“More easy” — a.k.a. “easier.” To communicate. For everyone.

And finally, a very strange error from the Washington Post, in which a year-old article was published anew:

The Post ran a story last Sunday by John Scheinman about the annual Colonial Turf Cup race at Colonial Downs in New Kent, Va. It didn’t sound right to reader Susan Robinson of Richmond. She said she was “amazed to see that Summer Doldrums was reported to be the winner . . . That horse did not run on Saturday, June 21, 2008. He did win the race in a previous year … I was at the race on Saturday and I can attest to the fact that that horse did not run on Saturday … However, how could such a mistake have been made?”

Scheinman, who writes about horse racing as a free-lancer, covered the event, as he did last year, but he mistakenly sent in last year’s story. No one noticed and it was published.

[Addendum: It looks like I am the one in need of a correction: see comments below, which show that The Economist was right. I guess it is an even more excellent magazine than I thought. At least I learned something new today.]

[Addendum 2: in (very slight) defense of my “pasties” error, consider the sentence that followed the “Cornish pasties for sale” sentence in the Economist article: “At least the pastry shells originated in Cornwall, but the fillings — such as chocolate-flavoured chicken mole — are distinctly Mexican.” It seems strange that “pastry” would become “pasties,” but I guess no more strange than “Margaret” becoming “Peggy.”]


You should check out another of The Economist's recent articles (Out of the wilderness). The picture shown is that of Yellowstone Park, which the article doesn't refer at all. I think the newspaper meant to show a picture of Yosemite Park which it uses to illustrate its point.


Growing up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula (the one bordering on Lake Superior and Wisconsin) I ate many a wonderful pasty. They were brought to the region by Cornish miners, just as they have brought them now to Mexico. Speaking of errors!

Pat H

I remember back in the 50s or 60s a story in the Denver Post about Cornish miners in Colorado and the pasties they carried in their lunchpails. Cousin Jacks [sometimes rendered Cussin' Jacks] and Cousin Jennies the Cornish were called in the Rockies; I wouldn't know about other places. There were funny little ethnic enclaves in the hard-rock mines and coal mines in the state.

Laura H

To Dan M. (75)

"51. maybe they were looking for tarts- oh, wait a minute"

NOW I get it! haha

Mr Hogan

Sir, if I was ever to confuse Pasties with Pastries my Wife would kill me. Her last name is Pastries. Lets just hope I never sleep with any Pasties. The Pastor would not be happy. Perhaps he would prefer you to eat Pasta? But he would probably do that to get into my Panties....

Oh bother


A friend attended a multimedia conference in Sydney a few years ago, where a visiting American professor was giving a talk. She made a mention of WWII, and then said "oh but you won't have heard of that" and proceeded to explain that war to the audience of (mostly Australian) professionals.


Hey, can we tie this to the whole movie quotes thing (20th century division)? The general American public was obviously assumed to be able to recognize "pasty" as the name of a British food in 1938. In The Adventures of Robin Hood, Errol Flynn (Robin) promises Eugene Pallette (Friar Tuck) "venison pasties" as an incentive to life in Sherwood Forest.


This is great.


This article was quite a roller coaster. First, I think the economist makes a mistake.

Then I find out that Freakonomics makes a mistake.

Then, my hopes and dreams are dashed as I find out that there are no nipple coverings that originated in Cornwall, and they are not being sold in Mexico.

And it's only 10:30AM.


Muriel has clearly only tried Ginsters pasties, as these are horrible, whereas the real thing (made in a bakery or at home, rather than factory-made Ginsters) is really rather lovely.

I personally had no idea what the other type of pasties might be, and it seems a quite a specialist piece of knowledge that Dubner has displayed there, no?


43. July 9th,


2:08 am

I don’t get it. The writer clearly meant “pasties” (meat pies), not “pastries.”

— Posted by Eddie Haskell

Eddie, a pastie is not a meat pie. A pastie is shaped as it is so that the miners can eat it with one hand, holding onto the pastry crust and none of the filling will slop out, unlike a meat pie, because the filling in a pasty is more solid. I don't like pasties, different pastry to a meat pie. I suppose it's a 'Straylian thing.


I am going to defend the use of 'more easy'. English does not have a standard superlative rule for adjectives; rather, it does, but it's far too complex. It can be fairly easy to tell that more intelligent is not intelligenter, but even the most seasoned English speakers, native or non, have difficulty with whether one should say more stupid or stupider. Would that English would make up its mind and either tack on -er or -est to every adjective or stick to more/most.


as they say, "pobodys nerfect"


What a nice way to start my Wednesday morning.

Good show.


I read the article a few times wondering what a Cornish pastry was, why I'd never heard of it, and how Stephen knew this was what the Economist meant. It didn't occur to me that anyone would not know what a Cornish pasty is.


maybe they were looking for tarts- oh, wait a minute


In a similar vein as the "more easy" to communicate statement, one of my local news stations uses the slogan "Clear, Concise, and to the point."

Stephen Jones

'More easy' is not unknown. The American National Corpus at BNU has 70 entries for it, as opposed to over 20,000 for 'easier'. 'more easy' comes from all sources, both academic and journalistic.

The horse race is interesting. I suspect it possible the report was in a file named after the race and the writer forgot to add the year.


Addendum 2 has an Oops as well. The author seems to imply that Margaret:Peggy is analogous to Pasty:Pastry - which is incorrect. The former is two different ways to refer to the same entity, while the latter is two clearly defined, altogether different entities.

Tim Worstall

Number 45: it is indeed the ridge that makes them pasties rather than pies.

It's not so much just dirty hands though. In tin mining (which is what the Cornish industry was about) the addition of water to the ore creates actinic acid and miners' hands would be covered with this. It's not a strong acid, so no damage to the hands: however, it is poisonous if ingested.

Thus the ridge, which as you say is not eaten.