Archive for the ‘Mixed Lollies’ Category

When it comes to alcohol, there’s only two things I don’t drink: beer and sambucca. I’ll hack the sambucca if it’s part of a Harvey Wallbanger, but even so, not liking¬†liquorice-flavoured spirits is hardly¬†a handicap on your average trip to the pub.¬†The same cannot be said of disliking beer. It’s a social drink. It goes well in rounds, most people drink it, you can share¬†jugs, and¬†it’s markedly cheaper than just about anything else. Nonetheless, I drink bourbon and coke (shut up), which at least has the advantage of being readily available.¬†But since I’ve¬†been old enough to drink in pubs, I’ve noticed my choice of¬†beverage, apart from being, yes, boganly,¬†brings¬†an unintended consequence: the Sexism of the Straw.

Imagine this: a confident young woman in a ThinkGeek shirt approaches the bar and asks for a B & C. The bartender (male) takes in her appearance, the gaggle of unruly logicians with whom she has entered, grins, pours her drink, and puts a little black straw in it. Firmly but politely, the young woman removes the straw, wipes it on the inside rim of the glass, and lays it back on the barmat. Drink in hand, she returns to her table. The round goes on; the bourbon is consumed. Someone else Рmale, most certainly a philosopher of some description Рsaunters up and orders a jug plus same. When he returns, huzzah! Рthere is no straw. Perhaps, the young woman thinks, the bartender has learned. But she is wrong: for, lo, when next her round appears, the straw is back, protruding from her bourbon and coke like a tiny plastic javelin.

Now imagine this happens at every¬†single bar, everywhere, ever. I cannot begin to describe how annoying this is. Firstly, who drinks bourbon and coke from a straw?¬†For that matter, what adult drinks¬†anything¬†other than¬†cocktails¬†from a straw, alcoholic or otherwise? Secondly, why¬†would chicks need straws more than guys? It’s not like our¬†lips are weaker. It’s not even neater, or more¬†girly-girly-feminine, because any¬†possible element of girly-girly-feminine¬†gained by¬†the straw is instantly lost by the fact that it’s bourbon-and-fucking-coke. The highlight of this weirdness came tonight, not at the pub (for once) but a Chinese restaraut, where the (male) waiter¬†brought my Long-Suffering Husband and I two glasses of water: one strawless, for him, and one with straw, for me. I mean, water.¬†It’s not like there was even a slice of lemon there, or ice, you know, something to swizzle around: no. Just plain ol’ water. With a straw.

God help me.

There’s only two scenarios in which I’ve ever been served strawless: either the barman takes careful note of my straw-refusal and thereinafter learns (although usually they go to put the straw in a second time,¬†catch my expression¬†and whisk it out again, whoopsie!), or the bartender has been female.

O barmen of the world, take heed: renounce your ludicrous straws. If it’s absolutely necessary, put them within reach on the counter, supply on demand – who cares?¬†But for the sake of everloving sense, stop giving them just to women.

It’s enough to make a girl start drinking beer.


Posted: August 26, 2008 in Mixed Lollies
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Recently, I’ve started riding my bike to work. On average, this means the trip takes me five or so minutes longer than if I were catching the tram and walking, but also – conversely – means that I can get up half an hour later, as I no longer have to factor in waiting for public transport. While riding in the rain¬†isn’t quite so¬†fun, I’m by and large very pleased. I feel fitter, I enjoy the process of getting to work, and I am reliant on no public transport timetable.

It also means I have to choose my wardrobe in terms of what can be cycled in. The idea of purchasing lycra and changing in the office is, to me, ludicrous – I don’t ride exclusively on the road, I’m not a speed-demon and the trip isn’t long enough to justify the effort. Neither have I purchased one of those nifty backpacks, opting instead for the occasional baggie over the handlebars and a shoulder-bag that doesn’t get in the way. I listen to my iPod while I ride, and have been known to sing along to The Beatles, particularly on my way home. Sandals and heels fall off, so I wear closed-in shoes or boots. If a skirt or dress dangles, I tie the offending edges into a knot over my lap so they don’t get caught in the rear wheel. All of which, I’m sure, serves to make me the height of cool in nobody’s eyes – but the point is, I make it to work on time, intact, comfortable and, once my skirt is unknotted and my helmet off, well-dressed, sans the necessity of bringing any extra clothing.

More than once, my¬†Long-Suffering Husband has made the point that my ability to do this is due largely to gender. In most office situations (he argues), women can wear just about anything, up to and including clothes that might otherwise be called casual, night-out-dressy, gothic or – in my case – mildly bohemian. Provided we “dial down the boobies” (to quote the single best line from The Kingdom) and don’t show too much high thigh, we can pretty much get away with anything. For men, however, it’s effectively a suit, tie very rarely optional, no matter what the weather. Men’s office-wear is uncreative and boring – and also, unsurprisingly, not too great to ride in, unless you’re into bicycle clips and a basket on the handlebars for your briefcase (says the LSH, although pants are certainly easier than dresses). In short, I have any number of work-friendly outfits to choose from, and am fancy-free to select for clothes I can pedal in.

Which is why (to come to a very circuitous point) I find myself rolling my eyes whenever I see office girls walking to work in sneakers, toting their actual shoes for the day – universally heels of some description – in an oversize backpack. Ladies, I have an announcement: if the shoes are too uncomfortable to walk in, do not buy them. We are under no obligation. No corporate job will enforces a female dress code so rigid that buying a pair of flats is out of the question. If flats don’t match your skirt, wear something else. And if wearing heels really is inescapable, then lash out and buy a pair you can stand to walk in. Even going barefoot makes more sense than dragging two pairs of shoes to work. Sneakers in this context look ridiculous, not only because they don’t match, but because they say, “here walks a person too conformist not to wear heels, but apparently too stupid to buy a pair that fit properly.”

For a suitably long walk, jog or cycle to work, a change of clothes is commonsense: you are not commuting so much as exercising, and the reason we have lycra, sneakers and tracksuits for the gym is because they¬†are designed to give support and comfort during¬†physical activity. But if all you’re doing is walking to and from the train, tram or bus, you should be able – as an intelligent, forward-thinking adult – to purchase footwear that doesn’t cause the same damage to your extremities as frostbite.

As has been discussed elsewhere, I am, among other things, a fan of names and a fantasy geek. These are both areas in which taste is subjective, varying wildly from person to person; but with fantasy, you only need please yourself. Names are a different kettle of fish: not only do¬†both partners have to agree¬†on¬†what to call¬†their child, but it’s generally wise to consider the child itself. This is a blend of social pragmatism and courtesy: no matter how much you love the spelling, calling your daughter Melyndah is probably setting her up for a lifetime of everyone getting it wrong.

Well do I know the pain of this, because while I’m quite fond of my given name – Philippa – there are four different ways of spelling it, depending on how many L’s or P’s you include. Almost every single award or school document in my cupboard¬†has it¬†spelled incorrectly, along with my maiden name (Grahame – also with multiple versions). This got so bad at university that when I won a literary award in first year, the¬†prize cheque was made out to ‘Phillip Graeme’ – which, apart from being a boy’s name, is so far distant from both actual spellings that I temporarily lost all faith in humanity. (Needless to say, I couldn’t cash it, and had to wait two weeks for one with my actual name to come through. ) On the flip side, there’s not an over-abundance of Philippas in my generation. Unlike friends called Sarah, Jessica, Matthew or David, I only had to share with one other person. Plus, I had Foz to fall back on. (For those who are interested, my dad first called me Foz as a little baby, after Fozzie Bear in the Muppets, because I smiled a lot. It stuck, and that’s pretty much all my family and family friends have ever called me.)

Point being, there’s a balance to names. If written down as a formula, it might be something like: familiar enough to spell correctly, but not so common as to lose all individuality. Even so, you can’t please everyone, and trying to do so is probably a recipe for disaster. Ultimately, it makes sense just to¬†run with your preferences¬†– after all, it’s going to be years before the kid can complain (if they ever do) and even then, you’ve got nicknames and the final option of deedpoll. So long as they don’t cop too much teasing for it in primary school, you’re good. (Which just makes me think of the Simpson’s flashback where Homer is trying to decide what to call Bart based on how kids might react, and settles on Bart over Louie, because it rhymes with smart rather than screwy.¬†I’ve heard worse theories.)¬†

Which brings us to celebrity names, and the recent spate of interesting ones. The biggest complaint I’ve heard of Sunday Rose is the similarity to Sunday Roast, while most people just think Shiloh Nouvelle is odd. (Keen observers of tabloid gossip will note that Angelina Jolie now has three sons whose names end in X – Maddox, Pax and Knox.) The new Packer heir, today’s paper says, is called Indigo, while the notoriety of Gwyneth Paltrow’s¬†children Moses and Apple¬†is well-documented. At the tippy-top of the list are the children of Bob Geldof and Paula Yates: Fifi Trixibelle, Little Pixie, Heavenly Hiraani Tiger Lily Hutchence, and Peaches – whose full name, for those who are morbidly interested, is Peaches Honeyblossom Michelle Charlotte Angel Vanessa Geldof.

All of which, by conventional naming standards, are pretty unusual. But as a fantasy geek, a significant part of me doesn’t mind – after all, I enjoy far stranger names when it comes to beloved characters. The level on which I object (if at all)¬†is one of childhood taunts and, in a couple of instances, adult embarassment: but both these things are socially conditioned. We object to weird names, not because of any inherent property in the name itself, but because it’s not what we’re used to, or what we’d choose ourself. It’s different. It’s pretty much guaranteed that kids will find a way to tease other kids, but in the adult world, why don’t we just get over it?

The truth is, we use names as¬†a kind of social measure. Based on our own preferences, we make assumptions about the kind of people who’d call their child X or Y, weighing it up against a mental list. It crosses generations: looking at names on paper at work, I automatically assume that anyone called Beryl belongs to my father’s era; that Chrisie¬†could be¬†aged between twenty-five and forty; and that Melissa is¬†around my own age. It’s easier with women than men, because for whatever¬†quirk of masculine pride, we tend to be more conservative when it comes to boys, presumably thinking that men are more likely to suffer for having a different name.¬†However snobbish and judgemental it makes us, we all do it. And in our adult way, we tease.

Some names don’t lend themselves much to mnemonic insults: thankfully, Philippa is one of them. A few inventive boys tried out ‘Philadelphia Cream Cheese’ in year 4, but decided, somewhat unsurprisingly, to let it die out. Pip was safe, too, until South Park made mockery of a certain nerdy English kid. With so many new names hitting the spotlight both in and out of celebrity circles, it’s tempting to speculate as to whether we might reach a point where unusual names no longer attract attention, both because¬†it’s celebrities setting the precedent, and because, past a certain volume, novelties inevitably cease to be novel. But I doubt it. The more likely scenario is that a new notion of ‘normal’ names is adopted, and retro parents who favour Jane and Michael will be seen as revolutionaries compared to those with offspring called Aqua and Eldritch.

So in the interim, why not¬†stay indidivual and stick with what you like? After all, it’s what everyone else is doing.

As¬†another working week rolls to a close, I’m left with a few pressing, unanswered questions.

1. What is the difference between ‘terminate’ and ‘exterminate’?

I mean, if you terminate something, you end it. And if you exterminate something, you…also end it. Should extermination only apply to a group of things, possibly? But if so, then why¬†do Daleks threaten to ex-terminate individuals? And why, when the meaning is almost identical, is the prefix ‘ex’ used? Ex means from, terminus means end, so exterminate feels like it should mean ‘from the end’. The end of what, Webster? The end of what?

Stupid language.

2. Why would anyone make a spoken email alert that sounds like an angry Cylon?

There are three people in surrounding cubicles whose email software, on receiving a new message,¬†goes ‘bleep!’ and then intones, in a low, electronic, so-robotic-you-can-feel-the-corners synth-voice, ‘you’vegotamessgage’, providing the constant background fear of being laser-blasted into space dust. The question isn’t why the voice software exists,¬†but why it’s apparently the default spoken¬†setting on our office computers. It’s downright unsettling, and – even worse – not one of the people whose alert this is has ever heard of a Cylon, meaning that¬†my brilliant¬†Battlestar¬†quips are utterly wasted.

3. 300 pigs have stampeded through a Victorian town.

They were headed for the slaughterhouse when the truck they were in tipped over. It’s like the Great Escape, only without Nazis. Wouldn’t it be fair if we let them go rather than rounding them back up – sort of a, ‘You win this time, pig, but I’ll be watching you!’ dealie? Poor little dudes. If only they weren’t so tasty.

As a life-long afficionado of names, I can tell you off the top of my head that Alinta is an Aboriginal word for flame; that Byron means born by the cowsheds; and that J.M. Barrie invented the name Wendy because he wanted something ‘friendly’ to call his female lead. Even when writing short stories in primary school, I was convinced that my character names were crucial to who they were, and disagreed fiercely (though privately) with my teacher, who said that they could all be called Bob and it still wouldn’t make the slightest bit of difference. Once I got my hands on a book of children’s names I found at home, I spent endless hours reading through and making lists of all my favourites – not for any children I might one day have, but to use as characters. Names I liked wented to heroines (and, occasionally, heroes). Names I didn’t, or which sounded ominous, went to villains. Inspired by Elyne Mitchell’s Silver Brumby series – in which most of the horses had Aboriginal names – I procured an Aboriginal dictionary from my mother’s study and started my own story along similar lines, looking up words for things like stars, water, speed and various horse-related colours.

Now that I’m older, I still care just as deeply about what to call my characters. Even in RPG games, the thing that takes even longer than rolling stats – either in real life or through a game engine – is choosing a name. It has to match my avatar’s history, what they look like, who they are; and the thought of just calling them Stephanie and getting on with it rankles in a deep and resonant way. Because once you’ve named something, it stays named. And I’m ancient enough at heart to believe that there’s power in names. Roma gypsies have always thought so, and children in that culture are given three names: one private, and never told lightly; one commonly used among the clan; and one for everyone else, which is almost never used except on paper. Fantasy writers as diverse as Kate Elliot, Ursula K. le Guin and David Gemmell have all been fascinated by the concept of true names, and put it to appropriate use in their stories. But although most people might dismiss the idea out of hand, it’s worth having a look at the all-too-common disparity between the names we are given, and the things we are actually called.

For instance: my mother-in-law’s name is Margaret, but only as far as records are concerned. To everyone else, she is Janie. My niece’s name is Heather, but the family calls her Annie. Back in highschool, a friend’s boyfriend was introduced to everyone as Tain, which suited him, and it wasn’t until almost a year later that we realised it was short for Martin, which didn’t. At college, everyone had at least three names by which they were known, not in the least because we were asked to make them up and adopt them in Orientation Week. Those of us who already had familiar nicnames used them, and were consequently never known by our actual given names; everyone else had either a corruption of a first-or-last name, or something entirely random. One girl, called Lauren, asked to be known as Trucka, following the logic that Lauren abbreviated to Laurie, which sounded like lorrie, which is a kind of truck. But it stuck, and nobody ever called her anything else. Then there’s the Great Australian Tradition of oxymoronic names: fat blokes are Slim, short folk are Lofty, redheads are Blue, and so has it ever been, to the extent that an airline recognised globally for its distinctive red planes is called Virgin Blue. It’s multi-generational, even: two of my mother’s friends have been known as Chook and Vobbles since the sixties for reasons that are now completely forgotten, while there are people I know only by their online handles.

And in all this malarkey of names, I start to wonder: which are the ones with power? Which are, to borrow a term, merely safe and innocous use-names; and which are truly us? Juliet (or rather, Shakespeare) posited that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet; which is true. But a rose by any other name would not be a rose; because the very nub of language is the point at which the word not only means, but is the thing. Think of Aztec pictograms, where each symbol stands for a whole word rather than a single letter. Then magnify the idea outwards. A word doesn’t just stand in place of an idea; it is the idea. Looked at this way, names don’t just mean us casually, merely as distinct from everyone else: they mean us specifically, behind the eyes and down to the bones, impossible to mistake.

The same idea is exhibited elsewhere in fantasy as the basis for spoken magic: the concept of a universal language, in which the word equals the thing to such an extent that speaking it aloud brings that thing into existence. For a real-world counterpart, one needs only look at the Bible: ‘in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was God, and the Word was with God’ is undeniably rooted in the power of names, and it’s worth noting that Hebrew, to the Jews, was (and still is) seen as the language of Creation; God’s lingua franca.

Which brings us back to names, and the choosing of them. What with genetics, friends, cultural influences, free will and individual reactions to upbringing, there’s a good argument to say that apart from life, a name is the only lasting gift a parent can give (unless, of course, the child grows up to change their name by deedpole, a-la commedian Yahoo Serious or that bloke in the Sydney phonebook called Zaphod Beeblebrox). So why not make it a good one? Granted, not everyone agrees on what makes a fantastic name, and given my geekish tendencies, there’s a good chance that what I consider lovely might make the rest of the world flinch, but at the end of the day (to borrow a phrase abused to the point of ritual castigation by one forgettable Deputy Headmaster), it’s putting in thought that counts.

Or, to recall that much-thumbed book of children’s names, one could just read the notice that says, in bold print, not reccomended, placed with sensible good reason next to Jezebel (Hebrew), Lesbia (Greek) and Everhard (Old English).

Language, it seems, is fickle – or at least, her masters are. Here in the corporate world, an entire new subspecies of wordage has crept, deformed and malignant, into the common parlance: action has become a verb; blue sky thinking has replaced optimism; gamebreaking has replaced ground-breaking, despite the fact that their usage is identical; and the instruction to get across something no longer implies a physical manoeuvre. In highschool, I witnessed a similar phenomenon: knowledge outcomes, learning objectives and – shudder – juxtapositioning came to glisten with a slick, unholy patina from their over-use, misuse and general degradation at the hands of the NSW Board of Studies, so that by the time I entered University, I’d developed a healthy mistrust of official documents.

But jargon, as a concept, is hardly new: bright lads that they are, the world-wide amalgam of medical practitioners cottoned on centuries ago, when some wry descendent of Hippocrates worked out that you could have a different Latin name for each of twenty-six bones in the human foot, and if that name was made up of two words, well! – so much the better. Tradesmen have their own inventive dialouge, as do lawyers, gardeners, soldiers, engineers, computer scientists, regular scientists, mathemeticians, philosophers, psychologists and a wealth of other professionals. For all we might resent being told we have an Oedipus Complex or a ruptured laetissimus dorsi, we don’t object to this type of jargon so much as grumble at the need to have it explained. It would be hard to write a book lamenting that doctors and lawyers are largely unintelligible; but Don Watson has made a pretty penny lambasting the corporate, educational and political spheres for being just that.

And then there is slang. Words like hot and cool, despite being diametric opposites, have come to mean exactly the same thing; but no-one objects. Fluctuating with creative glee, cultural terms like bunnyboiler, whale-tail and muffin-top are happy cornerstones of multi-generational slang, while most families have at least one or two clan-specific terms that are either entirely made up or less widely used elsewhere. My own eccentric kin are particularly good at this: to use a few examples, dub means toilet; tataise indicates a pleasant drive with no planned destination; sneety describes any sleek, pointy, long-nosed dog, such as a Jack Russell, but can also refer to cars, pens and, occasionally, mobile phones; erfs are eggs; a Horace Horse-Collar is any loutish, genially ignorant male youth; turkeys are fools; nadger describes any visible skin complaint; old gougers are old men; and rendezvous is pronounced phoenetically – ren-dez-vus – ever since I tried it out that way at age seven, with hilarious results.

So what’s the difference?

Ultimately, it boils down to our base affection for language. We have no innate objection creating new terms for old concepts, provided we can take pleasure in the task, bending words in clever, funny, outrageous, inventive, ironic or downright incendiary ways. Popular usage filters out terms that don’t quite work, or provides other options where people disagree. Corporate jargon, on the other hand, is largely redundant, taking the place of other terms while being less fun to use. Language is bullied into new forms through a process devoid of creativity; quite often, it results from sheer ignorance as to how the words in question were originally meant to work. Corporate heirachy and protocol then force them into common usage with none of the usual social safeties, such as mocking terms we think are silly, correcting those which are foolish, or altering those with potential. True, this process doesn’t apply to medical or legal jargon, but that’s because those terms aren’t taking the place of anything more natural: they are specific and ultimate, surgical tools for delicate work.

For most people, being forced to use corporate jargon is a kind of cruel and unusual punishment. Imagine going to work one morning to discover that, overnight, your office has adopted a new policy on slang. Funderful has replaced good; jivin’ has replaced cool; and there are lots of fifty year-old white men attempting to call one another bro. The pain of this scenario is utter. My God, you would think, backing slowly towards the door. It’s all so…so…lame.

And you’d be right. For those of my readers who are no longer between the ages of thirteen and nineteen, remember the hideous embarassment you felt whenever a resident adult tried – oh, how they tried – to be hip, latching onto a word or phrase that had either gone out a decade ago or which, because they didn’t appreciate it was only cool when spoken by someone not trying to be cool, made you cringe with horror and check that they hadn’t been overheard, even in your own house. This is the reality of corporate jargon: a bitter combination of middle managers trying with zero success to be funky, idiots on all levels mangling tense, and enough yes-men to perpetuate the crime throughout all departments – yea, throughout the whole company and, verily, even the competition – until we are all ready to implode at the mere thought of human synergistics.

Bunch of turkeys and Horace Horse-Collars, all. Given my druthers, I’d send them home – Jason the Dog – with their hair aflunters.


Posted: July 9, 2008 in Mixed Lollies
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The following anecdote is, unfortunately, true.

Browsing weird news stories at work, I came across the following: apparently, having more sex prevents erectile dysfunction in older men. Me being me, I decided to forward the link to my husband, who works at a different organisation. Without really looking at what I was doing, I typed his name as the addressee in a new email, put ‘Good to know!’ as my subject heading, copied the link across, and pressed send.

Several minutes later,¬†I received a reply, not from my husband, but from a complete stranger in my own organisation with the same first name, wondering, not unreasonably, why I’d sent him the link,¬†because¬† – and I quote – he’s “not that old”.


After¬†explaining that my email wasn’t meant as a new kind of Viagra-spam or personal disparagement and (hopefully) making amends, I think I can call myself a¬†wiser human being.¬†Moral of the story: always check your send field.

Or, if you’re sending naughty articles, make sure the URL boasts a¬†more innocent¬†phraseology than more-sex-wards-off-erection-trouble-in-older-men-study.

‘Is the King sick?’ asked my mother, somewhat archly. It was a telephone conversation, but still, I could hear the raised eyebrows. As I was meant to.

‘Well,’ I haughtily replied, ‘he’s not well.’

All of which might lead the casual eavesdropper to conclude one of three things about my family, viz:

1. We are intimately acquainted with royalty.

2. We are barking mad.

3. We have taken conversational existentialism to a new level.

In fact, the above vignette is, word for word, a quote from The Madness of King George, long-since appropriated by my mother and myself as a means of announcing illness. Specifically, if one of us hears through a third party (dad) that the other is sick, our next phone conversation will, inevitaby, be kicked off by this exchage, with the healthy person inquiring after the King, and the other responding. This has been the case for the better part of a decade, ever since the film in question first aired on TV, although why this particular line stuck remains a mystery of genetics.

Similarly, should one of my immediate kin be stricken with cough, cold, flu or any other such phlegm-wrought permutation, they will be dubbed victims of the Quodge, the Dreaded Lurgy or, in dire circumstances, the Great Spon Plague. All three terms derive from the Goon Show¬†and, by inference, the brain of Spike Milligan; and while lurgy isn’t uncommon slang in Australia and the UK, it’s still a rare¬†bystander who recalls the other two. Nadgers, or to have a case of the galloping nadgers, is another family favourite, although our useage of nadger refers to any scab, rash or visible skin ailment rather than¬†printing subroutines, as the internet might otherwise have you believe.

Were I still living at home and recouperating on my parents’ lounge, there is almost a 99% likelihood that my father would pop his head in and¬†suggest that I knit up the ravelled sleeve of care, as per Macbeth – sound advice, but in a slightly different context to Shakespeare’s original. I might also be offered a horse tablet, otherwise known as a Vitamin C pill, to keep my strength up: we’ve called them horse tablets ever since dad once bought a bottle of extra-large ones, prompting mum to comment that they were certainly big enough for a horse.

But the road to recovery is paved with pitfalls. On occasion, unscrupulous sorts have alleged that the invalid in question might not, in fact, be as invalid as claimed, meeting requests for the fetching of lunch and hot chocolate with rolled eyes. What’s the matter – got a bone in your arm?¬† my mother would ask, not entirely without sympathy. I’ve never understood this particular expression, as having a bone in your arm – several, in fact – is the normal state of affairs. Exactly how¬†this might impede my ability to get¬†something myself was never made clear, but the tone of delivery got the point across. What did your last slave die of? was another maternal favourite, until I¬†thought¬†of¬†a decent answer: boredom.

There’s a much-touted bit of trivia which states that Eskimos have hundreds of different words for snow, because they’re surrounded by it.¬†Not being an Eskimo, I can’t vouch for the truth of that statement,¬†but it makes me wonder if, in the case of family phraseology, there’s a similar phenomenon at work. We’re not always sick, all the time – but when we do succumb to our yearly bug, it tends to take hold, and we like to describe it. Graphically. For us, it’s not enough just to say, ‘I’ve got flu’ – no. We have quodge. We have spon. We have lurgy. We knit up sleeves, eat horse tablets, gallop nadgers and quote King George (well, his advisors, anyway). All by itself, it’s a different lexicography – a malady of tongues.

Pity we’re not Pentecostal, really. We’d probably win points.¬†¬†

Being Sick Sucks

Posted: July 1, 2008 in Mixed Lollies
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I have¬†a theory: when humanity has finally grown immune to the common cold, we’ll be halfway evolved to a different state of being.

There is something so fundamentally h. sapiens about¬†our yearly slide into the Land of Vile¬†Mucus that it’s hard to imagine the ability absenting itself from our species. That being said, I think we’d all happily suffer some chromosonal difference if it meant halving our yearly tissue bill.

Right now, my head is so clogged it feels like I’ve nasally inhaled a king-sized duvet.

Stupid flu.

Dear Telemarketing Corporations,


You suck. You suck so profoundly, so innately, that you’ve elevated it to a state of cyclic zen: you suck, therefore you telemarket. It’s not that your employees are inevitably based somewhere in South-East Asia, although the combination of frequently-impenetrable accents and appalling phone lines doesn’t help. No: it’s that your business practices are deeply sociopathic. Maybe your HR staff, middle-managers and policy-makers are all, by some social fluke, carriers of identically boorish, antagonistic genes; or maybe you just hate people. I don’t know. But should you ever exhibit any curiosity as to why cockroaches get better press than you do, here’s a few key considerations.



1.                  Opening Gambits


Don‚Äôt start with a lie, or near enough to one as makes no odds. No company forking out for cold-calls to my house is doing so for the privilege of giving me free anything. Whatever snake-oil you‚Äôve been hired to peddle requires my time and participation to purchase: don‚Äôt try and claim otherwise. If it‚Äôs a service, you‚Äôll want my details. If it‚Äôs a product, you‚Äôll want my money. Actually, you‚Äôll always want my money ‚Äď some companies are just sneakier about asking for it. Bottom line: don‚Äôt rush in with a glib offer that will (you promise) only take a moment of my time. That‚Äôs not how things work, and we both know it.


2.                  Ceaseless Talking


In civilised conversation, people pause. There are few things more maddening than a cold-caller who won’t shut up, and who takes the least hesitation on my end as a go-ahead to rattle off a three-page product description. The logic of getting your spiel in before I can signal disinterest is non-existent: if I’m interested, you don’t need to rush, and if I’m not interested, giving me no recourse to say so is hardly going to convert me. More often than not, it forces rudeness in turn: if I can’t get a word in edgeways to politely decline, my only option is to hang up. Angrily.


3.                  Hard Sell


When I buy popcorn at the movies, it‚Äôs inevitable that I be offered an upsize. Whether I accept or decline, the server‚Äôs job is to smile politely and thank me for my custom. This is a courtesy known throughout the civilised business world, but not, it would seem, to you. If you call and offer me something I don‚Äôt want, do not try and change my mind. Accept my disinterest gracefully and let me end the call. Telling me how good an offer it is or expounding on product merits as though I‚Äôd asked to hear them is not only rude, but counter-productive. Because the next time you ring with a different offer, I‚Äôll remember how unpleasant you were to deal with ‚Äď and will, to quote Pirates of the Caribbean, be disinclined to acquiesce to your request.


4.                  Thinking Time


In the unlikely event that your product does tempt me, I might still want to sleep on it. If so, I‚Äôll want the number of the person I‚Äôve just spoken to, and maybe a website with product or service details. For a company of your size, these shouldn‚Äôt be hard to provide ‚Äď in fact, they should be standard. But if you can‚Äôt fork out the extra few grand it might take to set up a temporary web page on the offer and organise a reasonable means for me to locate a specific employee, then why the hell do you deserve my business? I don‚Äôt care what percentage of contracts are now agreed to over the phone, nor do I want your views on how easy a decision it should be. Particularly if you‚Äôre offering to switch my utilities provider, it‚Äôs reasonable that I talk things over first with my significant other, or check that yours is really the better deal. Any attempt to force my hand, now, is deeply unappreciated.


And, finally:


5.                   Repeat Calls


In the past week and a half, our house has received no fewer than five separate calls from Telstra, all offering to switch us over from Optus. Especially for a telco, it speaks volumes about their ineptitude that they can’t simply mark me on their database as disinterested. Based on this example, why on Earth would I trust them with my phone bill?


In short, you act like rude, demanding, selfish children. Everyone’s sick of it. Smarten up, or shut up. (Either is fine.)