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Saturday, February 25, 2012

Nobody understands me

Apparently I do not speak or write English and therefore people who do speak and write English cannot understand me.

I say this because quite evidently, I can do both fluently. However, it seems that nobody gets what I'm saying, so I must either assume they do not listen, they do not understand because they haven't grasped the meaning of my words and so take it upon themselves to do what they think I meant, or that they are being deliberately obtuse.

What has prompted this outburst?

Well several things. First of all, I put a job advert in for a 'literate reporter' to work across features and news on our weekly financial newspaper.

Out of the 60-plus entries I received, about five came through with no spelling or grammatical mistakes on them.

Many of the applicants had proudly informed me they were 'fluent' in English, only to assure me of the complete opposite through their appalling spelling, lack of syntax and complete fabrication of vocabulary. 'Journalisticism' is not a word, nor is our paper called XXXX 'Advertiser' (although we do carry a lot of adverts, so perhaps you were just being a smart Alec. In any case, you went into my 'idiot' pile').

One man went to great lengths to tell me how much he wanted this job, his dream job, because he loved Formula 1.

I don't know how he got from IFA to 'Bernie Ecclestone' but he also went onto my 'idiot pile'.

When I have a free moment, each of these idiots will receive a letter from me explaining why I dismissed their application instantly and suggesting that, if they wish to get a job in journalism ('journalisticism') then they either learn how to spell or use a spell checker.

Because I am the human spell-check, sweethearts.

So, either 55 of these applicants were being deliberately obtuse, failed to understand my meaning or just didn't read the job description properly, or I was not writing in English. So many people cannot be wrong... can they?

The second thing to tick me off is the lack of understanding that people have when I speak on the phone. Admittedly you now only have my word for it but I can at times, and helped by gin, sound extremely posh. Sort of like a sardonic Lady Thatcher but without the apparent insanity.

So when I speak on the phone, I am offended all the time when people whose verbal skills are only slightly better than that of a Macaw keep asking me to repeat things because they 'don't understand my accent'.

This really gets to me. How many 't's must I overemphasise on words until you catch my drift? Why should I have to say 'ow-ah' instead of 'hour' or 'Stre-am' instead of 'Streatham'?

However, I am evidently not speaking English. (I am, just in case you didn't already pick up the gist of this post).

The third thing that frustrates me is when I email things so carefully, using short words and short sentences, and people ask me to explain it all verbally.

My temptation in this matter is to just read my email to them, pointing at each word in turn and enunciating v-e-r-y s-l-o-w-l-y the various syllables just in case the vocabulary was too much for them.

This does not go down well with colleagues. Or my mother, who put the phone down on me, but that was probably fair enough.

I don't mind people asking me to explain things, or to clarify things. But when they have an email in front of them and ask me: 'What did you want me to do with this?' the logical conclusions to draw are either that I have been writing in ancient Sanskrit or they just haven't bothered to read the email properly.

All these things, and so many, many more things - oh, another example: Facebook posts where people instantly jump down my throat thinking I've declared allegiance to one flag when it is clear to all the other 30 commentators that I had categorically not declared any such thing - make me sad.

What has happened to communication? What has happened to the beauty of the written word, where once upon a time, great novelists luxuriated in finding the mot juste or, if they couldn't, they just stuck a French phrase in, like wot I just did, and pretended they were educated.

Alas! Text speak and 140-character Twitter feeds have killed the radio, television and newspaper star.