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Straitjacket, you fool!

April 10, 2023

In the current edition of Private Eye, the review of Eleanor Catton’s novel Birnam Wood contains the following sentence: ‘None of [the characters] ever escapes her leash and the psychological straight-jackets she devises for them.’

Sorry, psychological what?

‘Er… straight-jackets?’

No, you fool! That should be straitjackets, as you jolly well ought to know. A jacket designed to restrict movement isn’t straight (whatever that would mean) but strait.The word strait means tight or narrow. It’s not used so much now but we still see it in the expression straitened circumstances; and also the straits of Gibraltar. The English translation of Andre Gide’s novel La Porte Etroite is called Strait is the Gate.

The Literary Review column in Private Eye always has a certain de haut en bas tone, conveying an impression of superior taste, judgement and knowledge. But the illusion is utterly destroyed by this crass mistake. I don’t know who the reviewer is but they need to raise their game. And we have to blame the editor, too. Pull your socks up, Hislop!


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  1. According to the words straitjacket and camisole can be interchangeable which might confuse customers looking to buy either. Or indeed both as applicable.

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