image of Avon Ring RoadHardly a day goes by when the hacks at the Bristol Post exhibit the poor quality of written English so prevalent in the media nowadays; and today is no exception.

Writing about a closure of the A4174 Avon Ring Road and clearly out of his usual field of politics, reporter Ian Onions drops a real clanger which would doubtless have been picked up if the paper still employed proper, old-fashioned, omniscient sub-editors.

screenshot showing words The existing bridge is also reaching the end of its shelf life and would need replacing in a few years' time in any case

Having a shelf life – that’s another first for a bridge!

Shelf life is defined by Wikipedia as follows:

Shelf life is the length of time that a commodity may be stored without becoming unfit for use, consumption, or sale. In other words, it might refer to whether a commodity should no longer be on a pantry shelf (unfit for use), or just no longer on a supermarket shelf (unfit for sale, but not yet unfit for use). It applies to cosmetics, foods, medical devices, explosives, beverages, pharmaceutical drugs, chemicals, and many other perishable items. In some regions, an advisory best before, mandatory use by, or freshness date is required on packaged perishable foods.

No sign of a bridge in that list of products, unless it’s covered by “perishable items“. 🙂

The term for which Mr Onions was grasping was clearly “service life“, whose definition is once again supplied succinctly by Wikipedia.

A product’s service life is its expected lifetime, or the acceptable period of use in service. It is the time that any manufactured item can be expected to be ‘serviceable’ or supported by its manufacturer.

However, since the reports headline tried to create uncertainty about the length of any road, I reckon the Post’s objective was more concerned with whipping up emotions amongst its predominantly car-obsessed readership than with accuracy in use of the written word.