Did you spot this big mistake on your new five-pound note?

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Kayleigh Dray

They haven’t been in circulation for all that long, but the new five pound notes have already caused more than their fair share of controversy and drama since their launch in 2016.

Firstly, there was outrage from vegetarians and vegans over the fact that the fivers contain trace amounts of tallow – an animal fat also found in many candles and soaps. Next, there was unbridled joy that five very special versions of the note had been released, each of could be worth up to £50,000 thanks to a miniature etching.

But now everyone is unhappy again (people’s moods change faster than a chameleon changes colour when it comes to these fivers it seems) – and this time, it’s all because of a grammatical mistake.

The polymer notes, of course, feature Sir Winston Churchill at his best and frowniest.

If you glance underneath the former Prime Minister’s face, you’ll see that one of his most iconic quotes has been emblazoned across the new fiver: “I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat.”

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat”

Note our use of quotation marks, because therein lies the problem.

Yup, the Bank of England has decided to do away with the punctuation all together.

A spokeswoman for the National Literacy Trust explained: “If you are referencing a quotation word-for-word, use double quotation at the start and end of the quoted section.

“Place full stops and commas inside the quotation marks for a complete quoted sentence.”

Meanwhile Dr Tara Stubbs, an English lecturer at the University of Oxford, went one step further, telling The Telegraph that the omission was ‘condescending’ and ‘dumb’.

She said: “It is a bit peculiar because it looks like it is the five pounds that’s speaking and not Winston Churchill. There should be quotation marks and full stop, definitely.

“It also doesn’t have the Oxford comma after ‘tears’. To take that stuff out is condescending and I find efforts to dumb down like this just irritating.”

Oh, the audacity.

Did you spot the error?

Did you spot the error?

The National Literacy Trust has reportedly advised the Bank of England to correct the mistake – although others have said that it really isn’t as big a deal as some people are making it out to be.

“I don’t know,” said Lisa Appignanesi (aka the chair of the Royal Society of Literature), before going on to add that she doubted Churchill would have minded too much.

“Orator that he was, [I don’t think] he would have noticed the missing punctuation.”

Images: Rex Features


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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