Correspondence with Nancy, miscellaneous

Australian belle-lettrists are no doubt familiar with the weekly publication Media Watch Dog, composed by a canine named ‘Nancy’ who belongs, we understand, to Gerard Henderson of the Sydney Institute, a man with an admirable fondness for the epistolary arts. A month or so ago I drew Mr Henderson’s attention to a minor error in an issue of Media Watch Dog, which was promptly, and very quietly, corrected.

I suggested, my tongue perhaps grazing the inside of my mouth, that perhaps the correction should be acknowledged, since Nancy had criticised David Marr in the same edition for not alerting readers to correction. Mr Henderson responded, and the result was published in the next edition of Media Watch Dog. (Although, sadly, the response to my email came very shortly before the publication of the next edition, meaning I was unable to respond in time for publication.)

Mr Henderson has not published my reply, and so, with your permission, I reproduce it below the fold:

Email to Gerard Henderson on 3 July 2014.


Dear Gerard,

Thank you for your response. I note that in the contents section of last week’s Media Watch Dog, it is implied that I wrote ‘in defence of David Marr’. This is incorrect. I merely noted what I thought constituted a slight double standard; one to which you responded with some admirably dexterous casuistry, for which I again thank you​. My email​, though,​ might just as easily have been read as a disapproval of both you and him​, and thus sit uneasily below a heading that proclaimed it to be a defence of Mr Marr.​

I was, au contraire,​ thoroughly excited to learn that ​’MWD occasionally runs its John-Laws-style-deliberate-mistake competition​’. I have on numerous occasions suggested to my boss that I do something similar with my mathematics, a proposal that has always been, inexplicably, rebuffed.

​Due to other demands on my time this week​,​ I am unable to submit to you an entry to aforementioned competition. My golden retriever Abu, on the other hand, ​had some time on his paws and was quite keen to ​partake, so I provided him with some old copies of MWD upon which ​to practi​se. I attach his work below, with some minor editorial comments. (Is there some kind of prize for most number of deliberate mistakes discovered​? Don’t necessarily take this as a hint, but I have been meaning to buy him a copy of Gerard Henderson Scribbles On, for either his intellectual or dietary improvement.)

​Best wishes, and do keep that morale as high as you possibly can​,






In Issue 29 of Media Watch Dog (18/29/2009), Nancy suggests that Tony Roberts’s book Frontier Justice: A History of the Gulf Country to 1900 was published in 2006. In fact, it was published in 2005. Has Nancy really read this book thoroughly? Can you bear it? (I find that on this occasion, yes, I can bear it. — Ed.)

A few weeks later, in Issue 30 (2/10/2009), a remark is attributed to someone called Ronald Regan. Abu has never heard of anyone by this name, although he did once hear this remark, apocryphal though it likely is, attributed to former US President Ronald Reagan. ​ ​

Then, in Issue 35 (6/11/2009), we hear of an Iraqi president named ‘Jalan Talabani’. Who? (This sounds similar to the name of the Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani. ​— Ed.)

​ In Issue 36 (20/11/2009), the ‘Chaser boys’ were described as being of ‘average age, 36’. At the time, none of the Chaser boys had yet reached the age of 36.

A week later, Nancy stated authoritatively: ‘The fact is that Billy Hughes was prime minister for just over six years – initially as leader of the Labor Party (October 1916-November 1917), then National Labor (November 1916-February 1917) and then the Nationalist Party (February 1917-February 1923). ​’ I don’t know what kind of dogfood Nancy had been eating when she composed this (probably just whatever was on special at the IGA, like you. — ​Ed.)​, but the fact is that Hughes became Prime Minister on 27 October 1915, not October 1916, following the resignation of Andrew Fisher, who was to become High Commissioner in London. Nancy correctly identified the beginning of the period of Mr Hughes’s National Labor prime ministership (November 1916), but this obviously disproves the date given for the end of his time as Labor leader (Nancy reckons November 1917; it was actually November 1916.)

​But maybe Nancy was crook that week because she also made repeated mention of a bloke she identified as ‘former Chief Justice Gerald Brennan.’ No such person exists. (I think maybe Nancy was thinking of Sir Francis Gerard Brennan, commonly known as Gerard. Strange that Nancy mucked that one up…doesn’t he share the same name as her (male) co-owner? — Ed.)

And she still wasn’t quite cured by the next week’s issue, because she misspelt ‘Somalia’ as ‘Somali’. Oops.


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