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Monday, 30 April 2007
Toodle pip

A. A. Gill is a former alcoholic - or is it a recovering alcoholic? - so it's rather good that his initials are A.A. I will add this to the growing list of amusingly appropriate names mentioned at NER, even though he can't hold a candle to Kevin de Cock. Anyway, taking one subject, if not one day, at a time, A. A. Gill is a bit of a prat, but sometimes he's quite funny, as here on the subject of signing off:

I’ve been considering the minefield of signing off, made so much more acute by e-mail, and I’ve come to realise that all trite expressions of insincere affection drive me to a puce distraction. “Missing you already”: no you’re not, but I wish I were. This should be used only by inept snipers. “LOL”: so much L, in fact, that you can’t even be bothered to spell it out. “Hugs’n’kisses”: anything with a connecting “n” is grounds for wiping your family name from the escutcheon of history. Smiley face: how utterly oxymoronic is smiley face? “Take care”: so you’re implying I’m a simple-minded invalid? “Keep it real”: as opposed to what? Keeping it fantastical? Mythological? Legendary? “Be careful out there”: no, you be careful, because you have no idea how many people want you dead. “Ciao”, “Auf Wiedersehen”, “A bientôt”: anything foreign is nauseating. As is Latin: “Ave!” or “Nil carborundum sodomiti” (“Don’t let the buggers grind you down”). Appeals to God — “Bless”, “Inshallah”, “Shalom” — are only ever written by the damnably apostate. There’s the cheerily Falstaffian “Keep your powder dry”, “Anchors away”, “Steady the buffs” — and the organic-hippie “Keep the faith” and “In with the anger, out with the love”, which are both what a girl I know calls “shag-busters”.

I realise that anyone who sends an e-mail with an attached cliché of even the mildest sentiment disgusts me beyond redemption — certainly beyond invitation. Which leaves us with a problem: how do you sign off? Do you just keep on and on and on writing? Shamefully, I must admit to use of the X key. I don’t mean multiple use, and never, ever, I swear, with an O. But I do do it to people I couldn’t be induced to kiss for cash. I know this is a concern that many of you will have answering suggestions for. Briefly, on an e-mail or a postcard. Cheers. Laters. AA. X

And it's goodbye from me, or, as John Betjeman didn't say, tinkerty tonk.

Posted on 04/30/2007 4:42 PM by Mary Jackson
1 May 2007
Hugh Fitzgerald

"And held me in her strong brown arms"

That's the essence of Betjeman.

30 Apr 2007
Hugh Fitzgerald

"recovering alcoholic"...

The falsest of false friends in translating out of Italian into English, or?vice-versa, ?is the word "ricoverato." It means "hospitalized."?A "recovering alcoholic" is the kind who hasn't been, or isn't now being, hospitalized.

Whose side do we come down on? Which language makes the better sense?

Meanwhile, elsewhere in the annals of language,? the last speaker of Wiyot died last week. Karl V. Teeter, raised on a farm in Lexington (when it was still full of farms), a high school dropout and Harvard professor and tireless letter writer and corrector of errors, linguistic and other, after his retirement, was that last speaker.

His obituaries all mentioned that he had been the last speaker of Wiyot (the last Indian from the tribe, in northern California, who spoke Wiyot, an Algonquin language, died in 1962, and Teeter was then the only one left). This made me think of Dorothy Pentreath, the last speaker of Cornish, who was immortalized in the London Magazine by a mezzotint, circa 1780 (google ?"JIhad Watch" and "Cornish" and "Dorothy Pentreath" for more),. And I was reminded, too, of the story in the Times last month about the handful of elderly people, a dozen or so, who still speak Manchu. And a hundred years ago tens of millions of people, in the time of the Manchu dynasty, spoke Manchu. Now I am thinking of someone whom I regard, in a sense that to me makes perfect sense, as the last person in the world truly to speak English.

Sic transit. Lachrymae rerum. O tempora o mores.?Eheu fugaces, Postume Postume, labuntur anni. Stuff like that.


30 Apr 2007
Hugh Fitzgerald

I ran across recently a single line of Betjeman that offers his quintessence

Quare: what was it? If you don't know, make something up.