The pedants among the scribes at Point of Order (who shall go unnamed) swooped on a headline in the Dominion-Post this week.
In its print edition, the newspaper had published a brief report under the heading “World’s oldest man dies”.
Newshub was a bit more expansive, reporting the news under the headline “World’s oldest man dies aged 112”
But in its first sentence, Newshub gave us cause to question the accuracy of the headline:
A Spaniard believed to be the world’s oldest man has died at the age of 112.
The Dominion-Post tempered its report, too, saying de la Fuente was “described by Guinness World Records as the world’s oldest man” and “Guinness World Records dubbed him the world’s oldest man” last September.
Newshub proceeded to tell us:
Saturnino de la Fuente died at his home in León in northwest Spain on Tuesday, Guinness World Records confirmed.
De la Fuente was crowned as the oldest living man by Guinness World Records in September 2021. He was born on February 11, 1909 in the Puente Castro neighbourhood of León.
A cobbler by trade, he started his career working in a shoe factory at 13 years old.
Plainly, the Guinness World Records has played a critical role in telling us what we know about de la Fuente. It bestowed the oldest-man-in-the-world title on him last September and this week it confirmed his death.
The media obviously regard Guinness World Records as more authoritative on de la Fuente’s condition than the doctor who signed the death certificate or the funeral director who handled the funeral arrangements .
But if the Stuff team had dipped into their files, they might have uncovered an item headed Was world’s oldest person ever a fraud?
Jeanne Calment, a woman from Arles in southern France, had gained international fame when she was recognised by the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living person ever.
But a new study has cast doubt on her claim and has come up with a bizarre theory. “Jeanne” was, in fact, her daughter Yvonne, who was just 99 at the time of her death.
Gerontologist Valery Novoselov claims Jeanne actually died in 1934 and that Yvonne took over her identity so she didn’t have to pay inheritance tax.
As for the world’s oldest man, at Point of Order we are adamant he can’t be dead, because the moment he dies someone else will become the world’s oldest man. It remains for Guinness World Records to identify him for the benefit of media hacks whose readers will be bursting to know.