The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

Blogged prose fiction by Joshua Gaskell

The WEBMASTER to the READER

Shortlisted – Funniest UK Blog 2015

I am the WEBMASTER, and it is I that will be presenting to you, READER, the private journal of Donald Pincher, aspiring author. How I came to be possessed of it is no concern of yours. And in any case, if I did go about to tell you by what accident I obtained covert access to the file, it would in this unbelieving age pass for little more than the cant or jargon of the blogosphere. Suffice to say that he types Journal.doc on his computer (Windows ME) and, in his careless cyber-luddism, has left open a pathway vulnerable to exploitation by those of us who know the ways of data capture.
Pincher is a pious, small-c-conservative young fogey of the leftmost wing. He lives unfashionably in the London district of Forest Hill SE23, and devotes his life to writing entries in his Oxford Urban Dictionary, trying to find someone willing to publish his novel – five-hundred pages of relentless socialist manifesto masquerading as literature – and to being fruitlessly apoplectic about the price of things in the capital. A privacy obsessive, much of his novel consists of (in equal measure) decrying the dangers of the Internet age, and mocking its pretentions. Which is why I thought it would be funny for him to write his own blog, even if it is one that he doesn’t know he’s writing.
Though the automatic-upload macro I’ve attached to Pincher’s journal makes me something of a deistical Prime Mover, I will occasionally deign to intervene in ‘the cool of the day’ (to footnote, to hyperlink, to tag, or otherwise curate). To this end you will know me by my dark-blue font.
Without further ado, I present to you what I’ve chosen to dub, in the idiom of its unwitting BLOGGER, The Worldwide Weblog of Donald Pincher

Thursday, 26th March 2015

People complain about call centres being based abroad, bad lines and heavy accents making it difficult to hear what operatives are saying. But actually, the ones based here can be just as irritating. English-based Call Centre-ese seems to have gone through its standardisation process, and it is a truly extraordinary language to hear spoken: yourself and myself, never you and me; ‘thank you for that information, I can confirm that I can provide you with an answer to that’, never just the answer; ‘Is there anything else I can help you with today?’ – not else: so far you’ve helped me with nothing; and the dogged, stoical use of with regards to.

It sounds like the product of a language academy dedicated to the non-human, to politeness so automated it’s rude, to vacuity and above all to ugliness. I don’t blame the speakers of the language but the bosses, who for some reason have decided to drive out the native wit and commonsensibly of their workers.

My last call centre experience was so silly that I’d quite like a copy of the audio. All these calls are apparently ‘recorded for training purposes’. Never mind training, I want to relive the comedy.

Wednesday, 25th March 2015

Nominalisation is

The process or result of forming a noun from a word belonging to another word class: writing/writings and shaving/shavings derived from write and shave by adding -ing; sanity derived from sane by the addition of the noun-forming suffix -ity[.] (Concise Oxford Companion to the English Language)

Unlike the above examples, in which the verbs and adjective are altered in order to form the noun (by adding -ing and -ity), modish nominalisations apparently dispense with suffixes and the like, instead leaving the word as it was. I’m thinking of ‘Head of Online’, or ‘Head of Legal’ as seen (uncontained by scare quotes) in, of all places, the current Private Eye. Then on the Today programme yesterday I hear a schoolgirl tell Humphrys ‘one of our values in our school is reflect’.

‘Is?’ said Humphrys. ‘One of the values in your school is…?’

Tuesday, 24th March 2015

Euphony is the quality of having a pleasant sound, and the OED contains twenty-two words which it says, under etymology, sound as they do ‘for euphony’. So, for my own aural pleasure, a reference list of the twenty-odd most designedly pleasant-sounding words in English: adularia, agmatine, alanine, alkadiene, cryonic, Datisi, Humvee, makee, micarelle, Negroloid, pooter, practolol, probenecid, protactinium, pullikins, Pyrex, rhynchotous, rishitin, Ritalin, thowt, Wi-Fi, yeet.

Oo-er missus.

Monday, 23rd March 2015

Let oneself go, v.

Pronunciation: /lɛt wʌnˈsɛlf ɡəʊ/
Etymology: let v. + oneself pron. + go v.

1. To give free vent to one’s enthusiasm.
2. To let oneself come.

Sunday, 22nd March 2015

A love or at least high tolerance for queuing is a British national stereotype, so I’m surprised to find that the OED records its first use in the modern sense, by Victorian sage Thomas Carlyle, as follows: ‘That talent,..of spontaneously standing in queue, distinguishes,..the French People.’

In terms of national stereotypes one would think the opposite. And sure enough, if one looks at the quote in its context – it’s taken from Carlyle’s French Revolution (1837) – the natural, stereotypic order is restored. In fact, I’m not at all sure that the quote belongs under the dominant, modern sense of queue, with its implied orderliness:

If Voltaire once in splenetic humour, asked his countrymen: “But you, Gualches, what have you invented?” they can now answer: The Art of Insurrection. It was an art needed in these last singular times; an art for which the French nature, so full of vehemence, so free from depth, was perhaps of all others the fittest.

Accordingly, to what a height, one may well say of perfection, has this branch of human industry been carried by France, within the last half-century! Insurrection, which, Lafayette thought, might be “the most sacred of duties,” ranks now, for the French people, among the duties which they can perform. Other mobs are dull masses; which roll onwards with a dull fierce tenacity, a dull fierce heat, but emit no light-flashes of genius as they go. The French mob, again, is among the liveliest phenomena of our world. So rapid, audacious; so clear-sighted, inventive, prompt to seize the moment; instinct with life to its finger-ends! That talent, were there no other, of spontaneously standing in queue, distinguishes, as we said, the French People from all Peoples, ancient and modern.

This has nothing to do with queue discipline. It is the France encountered by Robert Peston, a modern sage, in his recent This World film, in which he tells us that, ‘From civil servants to lorry drivers, the French certainly know how to protest. French farmers have turned demonstrations into a surreal art form.’ This over footage of sheep being herded, and then less successfully herded, through a public building.

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