London Pedants Puzzle: How Many Errors Can You Spot In This One Paragraph?

By M@
London Pedants Puzzle: How Many Errors Can You Spot In This One Paragraph?
The clock tower everyone calls Big Ben, with the words Big Ben either side of it.

Yes, we deliberately missed the apostrophe out of the title to get you in the mood for this geeky pedants' puzzle.

Are you the sort of person whose ears prick up whenever Big Ben is mentioned? Have you found yourself repeating the phrase "Big Ben is the bell, not the tower"?

If so, read on.

We've put together a paragraph filled with similar errors of London nomenclature. These are things that pedants will police with an iron, unmovable will. Get them wrong at your peril (or on purpose, if you like baiting pedants).

We think there are 16 such 'errors' in the following text. See how many you can spot.

"I took a staycation in London. I got off at Temple Tube station, before admiring the cobbled streets of Covent Garden. Next, I walked down The Strand, passing the centre of London at Charing Cross station, and on down Whitehall to see Big Ben. I then crossed south over the bridge to Waterloo train station, and on to the Elephant and Castle roundabout. From there, I took the train to Kings Cross St Pancreas where I admired the statue of steam train designer Sir Nigel Gresley. I then spent the afternoon enjoying the views of the Post Office Tower from Regent's Park, before heading to my hotel in Richmond, Surrey."

Answers below...

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1. Purists maintain that a staycation is NOT a trip elsewhere in the country, but a holiday where you stay at home and explore the local area (the last sentence makes it clear that our antagonist is not at home).

2. Temple station is on a cut-and-cover line not a 'tube' line. Some people make a distinction. The capitalisation of Tube is not necessarily an error — it's a style choice that varies among publications. Transport for London usually uses a capital letter. See our guide to tube pedantry for more examples.

A tube roundel with the words

3. Covent Garden has many stone-clad streets, but none are cobbled. They are setts (regular-shaped blocks). A favourite "I think you'll find' of pedants.

4. The Strand is officially called just 'Strand' without the definite article. We delved deeper into this issue here.

5. The centre of London is actually at the roundabout called Charing Cross (which is home to the statue of Charles I), rather than Charing Cross station. It is the site where the original Eleanor Cross once stood. The elegant spire outside the station is a Victorian replica, and in the wrong place. All this refers to the traditional centre of London from which mileages are now taken. A few years back, we discovered that a point in Lambeth is the geometrical centre.

6. Big Ben, famously, is the bell, not the tower. (Actually, it's one of five bells, not 'the' bell.) And those who claim that it used to be called St Stephen's Tower are doubly wrong.

7. Westminster Bridge aligns east-west, not north-south as often assumed. The counter-pedant could argue that it leads to an area known as the South Bank, but the phrasing here very much suggests a compass bearing not a destination.

8. Waterloo train station should be Waterloo railway station according to the more tenacious wielders of pedantry.

9. Elephant and Castle roundabout no longer exists as a full-on roundabout (i.e. you can't drive 360 degrees around it).

10. Kings Cross is almost always given an apostrophe (King's Cross), reflecting the place name origin, which refers to a long-gone statue (cross) of King George IV.

11. St Pancreas should be St Pancras (the only spelling error in this puzzle... but I couldn't resist).

12. A nerdy bonus error here is that the direct train from Elephant to St Pancras would actually stop at London St Pancras (the Thameslink station) and not King's Cross St Pancras, which is a tube/underground station. Also, the statue mentioned is in the mainline station called King's Cross, and neither of the two variations I've already mentioned.

13. Steam train should be steam locomotive (train refers to a sequence of carriages pulled by a locomotive). Incidentally, look up 'Gresley's duck' if you're not familiar with the statue.

14. Post Office Tower should now be BT Tower — a name change that's been in place for decades, but is still widely ignored. Oh, and in case you were musing whether the tower is not actually visible from the park, it very much is.

15. Very pedantic, but Regent's Park should technically be The Regent's Park. Give yourself a pat on the back if you got that one.

16. Richmond is a London borough, and has not been administratively in Surrey since the mid-60s (although many would argue that it's still in the "historic county" of Surrey, an entity that has little clout beyond the romantic and nostalgic). I initially wrote "hotel in Romford, Essex", before deciding that would be a bit of a far-fetched holiday.

Last Updated 26 November 2021