Daily Frolic 28: Do women belong to the human race?

“It looks as if you still have a way to go.”

“With what?”

“Gender equality.”

“You mean in public life?”

“No, no, a more fundamental equality.”

“More fundamental? You mean who does the cooking, washing up, vacuuming – stuff like that?”

“You are trivialising the issue.”

“No, I’m not: I’ll do anything to avoid vacuuming. So, if the hubby doesn’t do it, it doesn’t get done.”

“It shows.”

“How kind of you.”

“Don’t mention it. I mean how you perceive women.”

“As the superior gender, naturally.”

“Oh stop it! But it’s really worrying.”

“What is?”

“How The Economist sees women.”

“What have they written now?”

“This.”

 “The main roadblock is safety: overall, 62% of people think it is too dangerous to cycle, and around 75% of women do.”

 “Don’t worry; they haven’t excluded us from the human race – ha, ha, ha!”

“You sure?”

“Positive. I reckon what they were trying to say is this.”

 “Overall, 62% of people think it is too dangerous to cycle, and, of those, around 75% are women.”

 “That’s rather a relief.”

 “Isn’t it just? But it’s not an isolated slip-up.”

“No?”

“Nope; these two are from The Sunday Times.”

 “I have written columns in praise of everything from recruitment consultants to tall people, handsome people, women (…).”

 “The road vehicles amendment regulations stipulate that ‘no person shall drive a motor vehicle on a road if he is using a hand-held mobile telephone’.”

 “So how can you be sure that we are seen as fully paid-up members of the human race?”

“Trust me, I can. Anyway, we get our own back.”

“How?”

“Listen to this; also from The Sunday Times.”

 “I have neither a husband nor a man at the moment.”

 “Well, it does redress the balance somewhat.”

“But such illogical reasoning is not confined to gender.”

“No?”

“Nope. They were interviewing this industrialist on TV, and that’s what he said.”

 “I’ll go abroad or anywhere else in the world where I can manufacture more cheaply.”

 “Ha, ha, ha!”

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Daily Frolic 27: Contradictions

First of all, Happy Thanksgiving Day to all my lovely American friends – both those I know personally and those whom I’ve met through this blog. I trust you have many wonderful people and things in your life to be thankful for and hope those blessings will continue to rain down on you. Have a fantastic day – and don’t overdo the turkey!

 

 “What a good idea.”

“What?”

“Allowing TV viewers to voice their opinions.”

“Where?”

“In The Sunday Times.”

“You mean the Culture bit?”

“Aha: under ‘You say’.”

“Yep; there’s been some riveting stuff there.”

“Is this supposed to be riveting?”

“What?”

“Here; look.”

“People protest when football gets its biannual monthly showing.”

 “In a way, ha, ha, ha! But such contradictory stuff is not at all uncommon.”

“It isn’t?”

“Nope; look what they wrote in a book review.”

 “It [a book about David Lloyd George] tells a deceptively familiar story of his 30-year affair with a young woman called Frances Stevenson (…).”

 “Blimey, there must have been something in the water to keep her young for 30 years!”

“You’re not kidding! And this piece of sage advice was given by an agony aunt to one of her readers.”

 “Right now, I’d say: do nothing but act with love.”

 “To the point and clear as mud – ha, ha, ha!”

“Quite. I have one here about this cricketer; listen.”

 “We could not afford the asking price, but we bought it as an investment. We were only able to afford it because interest rates were low.”

 “Well, it’s always best to be clear on what you can and cannot afford.”

“Absolutely. And this was from another interview – with India’s biggest male film star, apparently.”

 “Dreams I never remember. What I never dream about is work.”

 “But how does he know?”

“That’s what I’d like to know. How about this?”

 “‘We don’t benefit positively or negatively from the coffee prices,’ he said.”

 “What? How can you benefit negatively?”

“A million dollar question.”

“Who said this?”

“The managing director of Coffee Republic, apparently.”

“Where is all this stuff from?”

“The Sunday Times.”

“All of it?”

“Yep. But they don’t have monopoly on contradictions. I remember one from The Independent.

 “What Saddam does with his al-Samoud missiles today will make the difference between the possibility of peace and the certainty of war.”

 “They actually wrote this?”

“Absolutely: in a prominent headline on the front page. And that’s what an Australian naturalist came up with.”

 “We are trying to save these animals from the inevitable [i.e. extinction].”

 “Oh dear! But at least his heart was in the right place.”

“Even if his brain wasn’t.”

Daily Frolic 26: Stating the obvious

 “This Sunday Times …”

“Hmm …”

“You learn so much from it, don’t you?”

“You do, you do; so what have you learnt?”

“About John Betjeman; they had an interesting article this week.”

“Yes?”

“They said he’d been infatuated with this Swedish beauty.”

“That’s what beauties are for.”

“And they also implied he’d done things properly.”

“With this Swedish lady?”

“No, no, with his marriage, ha, ha, ha!”

“What’s so funny?”

“Read this.”

 “Betjeman was married to Penelope Chetwode for 51 years before his death in 1984 but had a relationship with Lady Elizabeth Cavendish for more than 30 years.”

 “W-e-e-e-ll,  I’m not sure if cheating on one’s wife classifies as proper.”

“No, no, I didn’t mean this.”

“So what did you mean?”

“Well, he made sure he’d got this marriage business out of the way before he died, didn’t he?”

“Oh this; it’s just a silly preposition. Of course you are married before you die – they meant until: he was married to her for 51 years until his death.”

“But that’s exactly what I meant!”

“Well spotted – this was actually quite subtle. But stating the obvious is fairly common; sometimes, people do this in quite blatant ways – even professional writers.”

“They do?”

“Oh absolutely. I remember quite a few examples from The Sunday Times. What do you think about this?”

 “A light-skinned Asian female and her white male boyfriend had a baby using a dark-skinned Caucasian egg donor.”

 “What’s obvious about using egg donors?”

“No, no, no, it’s the boyfriend – he’s bound to be male, isn’t he?”

“You got me there – ha, ha, ha!”

“Or this.”

 “The prime minister generally campaigns alone without this wife.”

 “Well, at least they made it extra clear.”

“They certainly did that. And how about this?”

“Watts has one daughter, Seraphina, 33, who during her teenage years ‘had a wild phase that lasted until her twenties’.”

“Poor man!”

“No, I mean your teenage years always finish before you hit your twenties, don’t they?”

“Oh yes, of course!”

“And this was about Prince Charles before he married Camilla.”

“Carey was concerned about the constitutional crisis that could arise if the monarch died, leaving the royal heir with a mistress out of wedlock who could not be queen.”

 “They are all right now, aren’t they, Charles and Camilla?”

But that’s not the point: by definition, your mistress is never in wedlock – not with you, anyway.”

“Missing out on alimony like this is never a good idea.”

“You know that’s not what I meant.”

“I know, I know.”

“And what do you reckon about these two?”

 “The increasing interactions between people of different civilisations are increasing.”

 “If your monthly mortgage payment is, say, £1,000 a month (…).”

 “Well, they are certainly hammering the message home, aren’t they?”

“Aren’t they just?”

“And all this is from The Sunday Times?”

“Yep, but I have examples from other newspapers too; this is from The Economist.”

“As Samuel Goldwyn so wisely advised, never make predictions – especially about the future.”

 “Hmm, how does one make predictions about the past?

“Good question. Look, I’ve lots more similar quotes ; I will dig them out for you one day.”

“Can’t wait.”

Daily Frolic 24: Word play and more

Word play is a well-known literary technique, but this modest crop, harvested by me from the British press, betrays no traces of any conscious intellectual effort on the part of the perpetrators to employ this technique. It just came out like this … I hope these exhibits will raise a smile – or two.

“We arrested a boy for burglary, and the property was on him, but he couldn’t give us a decent explanation why.” (The Croydon Post)

 Well, who would expect decency from a burglar?

 “Figures to be presented to the conference will show just how the problem of excessive weight has grown in recent years.” (From my local newspaper, which shall remain nameless)

 A weighty problem indeed.

 “Gillian Shepherd, the education secretary, created a cabinet row when she said she favoured the return of caning, a suggestion slapped down by John Major.” (The Sunday Times)

 He could have hardly used a cane, could he?

 “ITC will be asked to look particularly hard at screen violence.” (The Daily Telegraph)

 I should hope so.

 “I feel some students who are already there [i.e. at university] would get a degree of benefit from an apprenticeship instead.” (The Independent)

 Better than a Mickey Mouse degree, wouldn’t you say?

 “Only three per cent of research funds for cancer in Britain go to the lung.” (The Independent)

 Too right: lungs are best left unclogged.

 “The heads of 25 nations stood shoulder to shoulder …” (The Sunday Times)

 And with feet wide apart, by any chance? Although the last two quotes don’t involve word play, I have found them irresistible.

 “Nelson Mandela, 84, became South Africa’s first black president in 1994 after 27 years in prison. He lives in Johannesburg and is married to Graca Machel, his third wife. He has four children. By Marcelle Katz. (A headline in The Sunday Times)

 All four by Marcelle?

 “Reuse of graves makes them better places for everyone.” (The Sunday Times)

 Does it really?

   

(Micro) Daily Frolic 23: Lexicon special

Seeing as Sunday is supposed to be a day of rest …

 Three weeks ago, The Sunday Telegraph had me rather intrigued with this bulletin about the fanatical Boko Haram in Nigeria.

 “Local reports claimed that, fearing an attack, 4,500 troops were positioned around the town. But they were overrun by 300 Boko Haram fighters (…).”

   Defeated or outmanoeuvred, quite possibly, but overrun? With the ratio of 15:1??

Daily Frolic 20: The Oratory Award

Today’s example has prompted me to institute the Oratory Award, which will be bestowed upon the perpetrator, normally a person of standing, of a most eye-catching sentence reported by the British media.  Uniquely in the history of awards worldwide, the qualifying period will be decided by me entirely arbitrarily – and so will the winner. Regrettably, my budget does not stretch to an awards ceremony. 

 

Perusing this week’s Sunday Times, I nearly choked on my Coco-Pops when I came across this gem.

 “Kwasi Kwarteng, the Tory MP for Spelthorne in Surrey, said: ‘This is a form of prejudice because there’s no reason why they withheld the ability to open a new account from [Stratford]’.” (Stratford, by the way, is the name of a lady of Iranian descent whose application to open a new account was rejected by Santander.)

How exactly does one withhold an ability to do something from somebody else? According to Wikipedia, the orator had attended Eton College and Cambridge and Harvard Universities. I imagine the sub-editor’s credentials are no less impressive.

 How about these?

 This is a form of prejudice because there’s no reason why they should have prevented her from opening a new account.

 This is a form of prejudice because there were no grounds for preventing her from opening a new account.

 

Daily Frolic 19: The unfathomable meets the bizarre

“This Sunday Times …”

“Yes?”

“It’s very educational; particularly the Money section.”

“Absolutely; what have you found?”

“This week, they have some interesting stuff about your state pension.”

“Oh yes?”

“Apparently, it’s not necessarily paid from the actual day when you become eligible.”

“It isn’t? I haven’t claimed mine yet, but I thought that, if I qualify on a Tuesday, I’ll get paid from that very Tuesday.”

“A-a-a-a, but that’s just it!”

“What, what? Go on.”

“You may not.”

“I may not? Why?”

“Because, apparently, you have this system here.”

“What system?”

“I mean this Department for Work and Pensions that you have …”

“Yes, yes, but what are they doing?”

“They have this procedure …”

“WHAT PROCEDURE???”

“Wait a minute, wait a minute, that’s what they’ve written here, look: ‘the start date is based on the first allocated Monday to Friday payday corresponding to the last two digits of their [the pensioner’s] NI number’ – what is NI?”

“National Insurance.”

“So if you qualify after Monday, you will probably have to wait.”

“Actually, I do qualify on a Tuesday.”

“I s-e-e-e, so you may … you may have to wait six days before your pension kicks in.”

“Six days – but I’d be losing more than £100; you must be joking!”

“Not according to this article. Apparently, such ‘lost days’ save your government about £30m a year – sneaky, isn’t it?”

“Right now, I can think of a few more appropriate adjectives.”

“A-a-a-a, but it’s not that bad.”

“It isn’t?”

“No, no, it all comes good in the end.”

“Thank heaven for that! How?”

“I wouldn’t want to get it wrong; let me read it for you.”

 “The DWP insists pensioners are not left out of pocket as the ‘lost days’ at the beginning of a pension are evened out at the end of it – that is, after you have died you receive the payment for any additional days missed at the beginning.”

 “So you see, you won’t be left out of pocket after all.”

They are saying I’ll actually RECEIVE my £100 AFTER I have died?”

“Well, better late than never.”

Daily Frolic 18: Officialese

“Hmmm, I was wondering …”

“Yes?”

“If you have only one thing …”

“Oh yes?”

“Could it, like, come in a range?”

“A range? No, of course it couldn’t.”

“That’s what I thought. And interaction …”

“Yes?”

“I forgot to look it up – English has so many difficult words – can you interact with yourself?”

“Not it you can help it, no; look, what’s this about?”

“I’ve been reading The Independent.”

“And?”

“They wrote about this important report.”

“Oh yes – who by?”

“They called it ‘the consulting arm of the US computing giant, IBM’.”

“Wow!”

“I know. And they guys who wrote it were the ‘veterans respectively of Legal & General and Prudential Assurance’ – apparently.”

“Must have been a hell of a report.”

“But … but I have found it a bit, a bit … how do you say it – mind-boggling?”

“Yep, mind-boggling. Why?”

“Look, I have it here – just read it.”

 “They said: ‘Financial services companies need to develop a better understanding of the range and interaction of a customer’s asset portfolio, which will help drive more suitable product and service responses. This needs them to fit themselves to the way customers organise their wealth, rather than the heavily product-focused approach they continue to adopt’.”

 “Ugh – officialese.”

“Where?”

“Where what?”

“Where is he?”

“Who?”

“This official.”

“What official?”

“You said: ‘official is’ …”

“No, no, no, it’s officialese – jargon.”

“Is that what you call it?”

“Yep. Or journalese.”

“Journalese. Why?”

“I’ll give you one guess.”

“You mean that’s how journalists write?”

“Not all – but some do.”

“Really? In Britain?”

“Well, certainly not in Timbuktu.”

“But I thought …”

“Look, l have a good example here. Also from The Independent. Are you sitting comfortably?”

“Should I be? This stool is a bit … a bit hard.”

 “In that case, I suggest you relocate to somewhere softer.”

“Done – fire away.”

 “As well as affecting how we do business in the marketplace, it is equally clear that customer focus has to change things inside our organisations. Achieving and sustaining this focus on customer satisfaction generally means measuring the satisfaction of customer groups with what we do, and using the insights to run the business – ie to evaluate and reward the people in the organisation, and to recruit and develop people in ways that sustain our market performance. The result has been, on the one hand, that customer satisfaction measurement has been a major growth product for the market research industry, while at the other extreme, major corporates have been inviting customer representatives to participate in decision making in recruitment and selection, and employee appraisal and rewards, to drive the customer view through their businesses.”

 “R-i-g-h-t … OK … so what they are really saying here is … is …”

“That organisations should keep their customers happy and listen to their views – that’s about the size of it.”

“Hmmm …”

“Actually, I have written a whole book about jargon.”

“You never did!”

“I did, I did; it’s quite jocular, though. It’s called An Alien in A Madhouse. You know I used to work in education, don’t you?”

“So you keep saying.”

“Do I? Sorry, sorry. But, anyway, we were paid by the government, and the bumf they would fire at us was full of jargon. That’s what I poked fun at in the book – among other things.”

“The government?”

“Yep.”

“You mean the British government?”

“Yep.”

“Well I never!”

 

 

Daily Frolic 17: A medical miracle

“Wow, that’s amazing: it must have made medical history.”

“What have you been reading – The American Journal of Sociology, by any chance?”

“Why?”

“Because they wrote that married people were less likely to die than singles – ha, ha, ha!”

“Well, at least my immortality is in the bag.”

“And mine! But I’d better quit having a go at my lawfully wedded over using a cloth that’s just been on heavy duty round the lavatory for wiping the kitchen worktop with – just in case.”

“Hmm, you might have a point there, though our marital harmony is imperilled by who will do the hoovering – mostly.”

“Yep, that’s also a bugger. You know what the moral is?”

“What?”

 “If you fancy living forever, hire a cleaner.”

“But not a nubile 20-year-old blonde from Latvia.”

“No, no, God forbid! But you were saying – about this medical history?”

“Oh yes, yes, I reckon it’s a medical miracle.”

“A medical miracle?”

“Undoubtedly.”

“Go on.”

“Well, I’ve been reading this Daily Telegraph.”

“And?”

“That’s what they wrote.”

“He passed his driving test first time at the age of 17, bought a van and was soon making a good living repairing washing machines despite his crumpled body.”

 “So? I’m not with you: many disabled people are very successful in life – what sort of miracle is that?”

“No, no, but it’s not that.”

“Well, obviously they got muddled over ‘first time’, but …”

“No, no, it’s not that either.”

“Wait a minute, wait a minute, but it does make you wonder how old he was when he passed his driving test for the second time.”

“No, no …”

“Yes, yes: they should have written ‘at the first attempt’ or something along those lines.”

“I know, I know, but I haven’t finished yet!”

“You haven’t? Sorry.”

“Just listen: the next sentence went like this.”

 “That same year, he married and had two children, Anne-Marie, now 33, and Philip, 31.”

 “W-h-a-a-a-t?”

“You see?”

“Blow me down – I certainly do!”

Daily Frolic 15: More fun with mixed metaphors

“A-a-a-a, they’ve finally blown the lid off it.”

“Who did?”

“The British press.”

“Blown the lid off what?”

“Why reading standards are slipping here; you told me they were.”

“Regrettably. So what reason did the press give?”

“Well, they haven’t actually been all that explicit, but one can draw one’s own conclusions.”

“But what did they say exactly?”

“This.”

“Much better that future generations of children can breathe in and touch the hand of history than read a descriptive narrative in a book.”

 “Oh this – ha, ha, ha!”

“But it’s not funny; I think it’s rather sad myself. Then again, breathing in the hand of history is bound to bring at least some benefit.”

“You can’t be serious!”

“But I’m …”

“No, no, no, they’ve mixed their metaphors again – I’ve told you about mixed metaphors, haven’t I?”

“You mean like this permeating tail?”

“The very same.”

“All the same, the bit about reading is quite depressing.”

“No question.  You grow up, you become a journalist, you get hired by The Times Educational Supplement and then you come up with stuff like this.”

 “A drop in high achievement among seven-year-olds’ basic skills is swinging the pendulum further towards phonics.”

 “You mean this drop found itself among skills because it was swinging on this pendulum so hard?”

“Give me strength – it’s just another mindless jumble.”

“But, but … what does it actually mean?”

“Not entirely sure but probably something along these lines.”

 “The decline in basic skills among seven-year-olds is swaying opinion further towards phonics.”

 “A-a-a-a, that’s better. I mean obviously not that your kids are slipping; I didn’t …”

“I know, I know. Look, mixed metaphors are quite common. I have another one here for you – also from The Times Educational Supplement. It’s supposed to be an imploration for British colleges to resist too much government control. “

 “Otherwise, the ideological bandwagon, supplemented by battalions of unthinking, unblinking ‘change agents’ will infect the terrain.”

 “Well, you certainly wouldn’t want to be infected by a bandwagon; it could be very unpleasant.”

“But not half as unpleasant as reading dross such as this. As for those unthinking battalions, they seem to have already infected quite a large terrain of our media – and other institutions.”

“Hmmm, I’m beginning to …”

“Yep, so you should. I think you’ll enjoy this one: I found it in The Sunday Times.”

 “The situation demands an intellectual solvent that cuts through the woolly-headed posturing of our make-believe world (…).”

 “But … there’s … what … it’s, it’s … is this really what the situation demands?”

“Nope, I reckon it demands far, far more than that.”

 

PS

The first post poking fun at mixed metaphors is called Daily Frolic 10: A Cautionary Tail (10th November 2014).