Harold Evans: On filleting the fishmongers

haroldevans

Nice to see Harold Evans back at it. The 81-year-old editor, who has a new book to promote (left), is interviewed into today’s Guardian. I’ve been re-reading his Newsman’s English recently, which includes this prize catch: “There is a joke about a fishmonger which makes the point [about the need for economy in writing]. It is an old joke, but perhaps we can regard it as sanctified by custom; and say it should be recited as initiation ceremony for text editors. The fishmonger had a sign which said:

FRESH FISH SOLD HERE

The fishmonger had a friend who persuaded him to rub out the word FRESH – because the naturally he wouldn’t expect to sell fish that wasn’t fresh; to rub out the word HERE – because naturally he’s selling it here, in the shop; to rub out the word SOLD – because he isn’t giving it away; and finally to rub out the word FISH – because you can smell it a mile off.

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