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IT is a well- known fact that a true gentleman shouldn't ask a lady her age, which puts me at an obvious disadvantage.

Not that I'm prying,mind. But as a journalist,I'm almost bound to have to put that question to a lady every now and then.

Mind you,Oscar Wilde wrote that ``one should never trust a woman who tells one her real age'',adding that ``a woman who would tell one that, would tell one anything''.

I couldn't possibly comment on Wilde's very regal-sounding reasoning.

But why newspapers often insist on including a person's age in a feature or news report is a question frequently put to me.

In fact,it can be very relevant,in that people's perceptions of life can be different as we pass through different stages of it.

Doris Bloggs,92,joining her local speed-skating team is a story that really does take the eye.

Just as the fact that Maisie Morris, 14, wins theWI's gooseberry jam making competition is equally as eye- catching. Well,perhaps not,but I'm sure you get my drift.

But I have to hold my hands up here and admit to having made a horrendous faux pas in the august pages of this publication last week.

In an e- mail carrying the simple but, yes,eye-catching subject line of ``Oi!'',Bethan Gwanas Evans ticks me off for stating in my feature on inveterate travellers that she is all of 42.

With the equally simple warning of ``You're in trouble,pal!'', she informs me that she is a mere stripling of a thing at the gentle age of 41.

I'll willingly take back my previous allegation,and offer her my apologies for my attempt at premature ageing.

Correspondent Miss MA Hassal from Conwy does not reveal her age, but she has been an inveterate -yes, that word again -collector of snippings from the Daily Post over some period of time.

But she is not searching for those gems of wisdom and ingenuity that pepper our paper every day,but rather the handiwork of those dratted gremlins that pop up every now and then to make life difficult for your average hard-pressed journalist.

I'll just offer you a brief taste of the type of printed mistakes she has squirreled away over the months.

Firstly,in a recent ``On This Day...'' item we said that Florence Nightingale had died on that day in 1910 ``during the Crimean War''. As Miss Hassall points out,and as every historian would no doubt tell you, the Crimean War ended in 1856.


Then there was the recipe in a recent Saturday edition which included ``cornflower'' among the ingredients. Of course it should have read ``cornflour''.

We'll pass the responsibility for the first howler to the company who supplies us with these items, while the dear old spell-checker has to carry the can for the second. Or should that read spellchequer?

Meanwhile,just hand me the next buck waiting to be deftly passed on, will you?
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:Daily Post (Liverpool, England)
Date:Sep 10, 2003
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