Day 42

Any Other Business

Has the novelty of virtual meetings worn off yet for you? If not, don’t worry, it will soon. And hands up anyone who has already used the excuse of a dodgy wifi connection for dropping out of some interminable meeting or other? If you haven’t, please feel free now to so do.

Meetings, virtual or otherwise, are among the top ten useless things invented by man (with a capital M). They sit alongside washing-up basins, radiator covers and mindfulness as testament to man’s inhumanity to man and his unerring ability to make incorrect decisions. Speaking of decisions, can any of you recall a meeting that actually came to one that was subsequently implemented? Thought not. Meetings exist to provide middle-management with the illusion that they are actually working, and to keep the rest of us away from actually doing work. As this site’s subjunctive consultant succinctly puts it, they achieve nothing that a well-constructed email could not achieve in a fraction of the time.

And so to today’s topic [this will be a laugh – Ed.], and this is actually a commission: Query Boy paid me off in home-made pancakes for promising to address what is a burning issue for him. He obviously has the heat up too high before he pours the batter in. (What I have done there, Shirleen, is called misdirection in the trade: I led you to believe that the adjective ‘burning’ referred to how important the matter in hand [batter in hand? – Ed.] ((I’ll do the jokes – me)) is for Query Boy, then switched it at the last moment to refer back to the results of his experiments in cooking.) Normally I would treat any requests to address a particular subject in this space with the disdain they deserve, and with a taut, “Go and write your own blog, you w***er!”, but pancakes is pancakes.

People, as opposed to cattle, generally have trouble knowing how to sign off emails. The rules they mis-learned at school for ending letters (for historical reference as no one writes letters any more, it is ‘Your sincerely’ if you know the addressee’s name, and ‘Yours faithfully’ if you don’t) are way too formal for electronic use, and so people flail about with various formulae such as ‘Best wishes’, ‘Thanks’ and ‘Keep her lit, boy’. Query Boy himself has landed on the phrase Le meas (look it up; this is not Irish:101 you’re in here) as his way of finishing an email, but as his emails (to me, anyway) are generally full of sarcasm, this has the opposite of the literal meaning and has me wondering whether he is in fact employing what is known (in the trade, but also elsewhere) as double sarcasm.

Double sarcasm was invented by me, Charly and Walter on a slow Wednesday during a Gaeltacht course in Donegal. Under its strict and ever-evolving grammar, while continuing to use what is recognisably a sarcastic phrase, one’s intended meaning is actually the opposite of the sarcastic meaning, which is itself the opposite of the literal meaning of the words. An example will probably retrieve you from the slurry pit that last sentence threw you into. Thus, under ordinary sarcasm rules, were Walter to say, “I’m nearly looking forward to the céilí tonight, like,” Charly and I would get the meaning that he was not relishing the prospect of a night of fiddly-dee and jigs and forced dancing – Hitler Youth would not be in it when I think back on the totalitarian torture we were subjected to on those language courses in Donegal. Under double sarcasm, however, we would understand that he could not wait to get his dancing brogues on and was hoping to touch for that girl with the curly, black hair at that evening’s musical soirée. We briefly toyed with the concept of triple sarcasm – which would reverse the phrase back to its original sarcastic intent, obviously – but we confused ourselves with that one, and ended up with no one knowing what anyone else really meant. Like.

As an aside [from what, exactly? – Ed.], me and the daughter have come up with a related linguistic phenomenon (I can never spell that word) which, as yet, has no title. It involves saving ourselves some time in typing (we never actually talk to each other, but do exchange the odd text, sometimes very odd) by negating the meaning of words beginning with vowels by the simple measure of prefixing an ‘n’ to them. Thus, if the suggestion under discussion is not acceptable, instead of going to all the bother of typing “not OK”, we will just type “nOK”. Similarly “nalways”, “nindubitably”  and “nunnecessary” have the opposite meaning to those words minus the prefixed ‘n’. Nobviously.

As those of you who think you know me know, I have hit upon the perfect solution to ending emails: I finish what I am saying, then write simply ‘Philip’ on a line by itself, with the automatic signature a spaced line below that. If it is a particularly personal or intimate email, the ‘p’ in Philip will be in lower case. [You fool! Now they’ll all want one in lower case – Ed.] The first ‘p’, for clarity’s sake; the second ‘p’ knows its place and rarely ventures into capitals. Especially not after that bad experience it had in Barcelona.  I suggest you all do the same, and ditch all those other formulae that can never be appropriate in all cases. [nappropriate? – Ed.] In years to come, social historians will be wondering who this guy Philip/philip was, and why he wrote so many emails from so many different addresses.

While Query Boy will nobviously stick to his own sign-off in nadmirable obstinancy, what his commission actually wanted me to address was why under God women – and it is only women who do it before you reach for the sexist manual – include kisses with all their sign-offs to emails and texts. Kisses as in ‘x’, sometimes ‘xx’ and nalways ‘xo’ with the ‘o’ representing a hug, napparently. Even when they are texting their bank manager or drug dealer, I presume, especially if the same individual holds those two positions. In response to Query Boy, and in payment for all the pancakes, I can reveal my considered and thoroughly-researched response here today: I don’t know. Maybe ask a woman? Which I am not.

It is weird, though. But, then again, so are cattle. (You see what I did there, don’t you Shirleen? You are fairly behind the curtain now, but you will not understand that reference.) I am away out now to count mine and have my healthy smoke outside. Even more healthy now, it seems, on foot of the latest research proving smokers are less susceptible to catching covidnovid. Put that in your pipes and smoke it, sanctimonious fuckwits of the world! Nimmediatley.