ONE STEP FORWARD, TWO STEPS BACK: don’t dis my crimination?


Don'tDisMyCrimination

Reverse-sexism? Or lazy journalism?

So there I was the other morning, luxuriating on the cushions by the warm gas heater in my big, thick winter dressing gown, crunching away on my four-grain toast and my muesli, pondering my first world problems in that semi-vacant way you do when you’re only half-awake… the heater was by now actually generating too much warmth, I had too much to eat for breakfast, I’d badly screwed up my morning coffee, you know the kind of thing. Then ABC News Breakfast cut into my thoughts with a report about yet another boat full of asylum-seekers that had gone down somewhere between Indonesia and Australia. “More than 130 people were on board”, the reporter said, in that wistful tone that TV news reporters use for nearly everything these days, “including women and children”.”How awful”, I thought to myself… double take … but wait a minute! “Including women and children”?? Why “including women and children”?? Does that somehow make it more sad, more tragic, than if only men had died? What’s going on here? Can it be… is this a clear-cut case of gender-based discrimination I see before me?

Suddenly, I was very much awake.

At this point, I hasten to add that I’ve no intention of commenting further on the specifics of the boat thing – I don’t want my flippant tone to detract from what is nothing less than a desperately tragic situation; a disgraceful, shameful mess that several governments in our corner of the world – not least of which, our own – should be removed from office over, for the part they’ve knowingly played in it. But I digress.

So back to matters of a more shamelessly frivolous nature… this “including women and children” thing. I’ve mulled it over for two days now and I need to exorcise it! See, it’s a little-acknowledged fact that men have been the (perhaps unlikely) victims of gender-based discrimination for longer than any of us can remember. It’s not a case of us ‘finally’ getting our comeuppance, not really. This “including women and children” business has happened since the dawn of time! Bottom line: regardless of the situation, I struggle to see how either gender or age makes someone’s premature death in tragic circumstances any more tragic than it already is. Human beings are human beings and when an innocent human life is lost prematurely it’s always a tragedy, plain and simple. Gender and age mixes only mean something to market researchers, not to death tolls. Imagine if a boat sank at sea and a 5-year-old child, a 28-year-old childless woman, a 36-year-old father and a 67-year-old grandfather all died – it’s all just sad, there’s no other way to feel about it. Could I look at this group of prematurely deceased people and feel degrees of sadness, relative to their age and gender? Could I plot the relative level of sadness on a scale of one to five, where one is not sad at all and five is inconsolable? Of course I couldn’t.

But these repeated media references to “including women and children” are tantamount to saying that a situation just wouldn’t have been quite as bad, not quite so tragic, if only men had died.

WTF!?!

In this PC-gone-mad age of ours, I can’t believe anyone’s still able to get away with saying something like that! Just imagine if the report of last December’s asylum-seeker boat sinking off the Indonesian coast had mentioned that “an overcrowded boat full of asylum seekers sank on Saturday, killing as many as 180 people, including men and elderly people”. Of course it’s ludicrous – why would anyone say that? So why, then, does the “including women and children” tagline tug at our heartstrings? And it must do, it’s an age-old journalistic technique that just keeps being rolled out, time and again.

It’s lazy journalism though, utilised with the sole intention of injecting emotion into situations that are already, if you’ll excuse a poorly timed pun, swimming with emotion; drowning in it, in fact… if you’ll excuse another poorly timed pun; it’s lazy journalism that seeks to either enhance or reduce the impact of a situation by singling out a sub-set of people, solely on the basis of their age or gender; and, quite frankly, it’s lazy journalism that’s no less discriminatory and no less offensive than any other practice of singling out a sub-set of people on the basis of their age, gender, religion, sexual orientation, height, weight, hair colour, impairment or anything else that the 2012 PC brigade would jump up and down about.

So next time you hear or see “including women and children” used in the context of some horrible tragedy, take a moment to reflect on what’s happened – would it have been any less tragic if only men and old people had been involved? I urge everyone to really think about it.

Including women and children.

WHERE WOULD WE BE WITHOUT… School Zones


school-zone

School Zones… making motorists everywhere accountable for your children!

Is it just me, or do ‘School Zones’ seem a bit, I dunno, dumb? They certainly know how to labour the point.

I get what School Zones were intended to achieve when they were first introduced to this country. What I don’t get is why it was decided to treat a sympton of the problem, rather than the problem itself. I’m also not entirely clear about why that guy jogging along the footpath is moving faster than I am when, for most of the 90-odd minutes that School Zones are enforced, my ‘run over some dumb kid’ window of opportunity is only really open for about 15 minutes?

Particularly in a city like Sydney, with roads that are already congested to breaking point, surely there’s a more efficient way to do this than to create even more congestion by slowing everyone down to a snail’s pace whenever they’re within coo-ee of a school? And let’s not forget that all School Zones are also liberally peppered with speed cameras – if we don’t drive off the road and run into a child from all the confusion of not knowing where one School Zone ends and the next one begins, we’ll be done for speeding… they’ll get us one way or another!

Yes, The Honourable Duncan Gay, Minister for Roads and Ports in NSW, I’m talking to you! Have you ever driven along the Pacific Hwy through the North Shore at 3:45 on a weekday afternoon? Or along Pennant Hills Road from the end of the F3 towards the city at the same time of day? Have you ever noticed the number of schools along both of those absurdly clogged-up stretches of tarmac? They’re everywhere! And whenever I’ve had the misfortune of passing them during School Zone periods, I’ve invariably never seen even one solitary child. And just one child is all I’d need to see, as I pass through yet another School Zone utterly devoid of children, to feel at least a bit better about that old bloke in his front yard pushing his Victa over the lawn faster than I’m legally allowed to drive!

Why should I have my travel time increased just because parents and schools aren’t held accountable for the wellbeing of their own children and students? Coz let’s be honest about this, that’s what we’re talking about; that’s the real problem here – not that I drive recklessly around school zones; not even that some kids are dumb enough to think they can run into the middle of the road without looking and expect not to come into violent contact with a car (though, it’s true, that is pretty dumb). The bottom line is that I – along with every other hapless driver who happens to pass the school that your child attends – am held accountable for the behaviour of your child. And where are you while I’m shouldering this extraordinary burden on your behalf? At home enjoying a cuppa and the last half hour of Sunrise, maybe? Or perhaps you’re still sitting in your never-goes-offroad 4WD SUV and parked around the corner from the front gate of the school? Or maybe you’re already at work because you can’t afford the mortgage, the two SUVs, every electronic device on the market, the kids’ sports, your always up-to-the-minute wardrobe and that busy social life of yours without both of you working? Boo-hoo, cry me a river – if you couldn’t afford kids in the first place, you shouldn’t have had them! Wherever you are, you’re not here. I, however, am here and I choose not to have children because I don’t want any, yet I’m still somehow responsible for how yours behave outside their own school. Reconciling this equation is a constant struggle.

So if parents refuse to hold themselves accountable for their own children, what about the schools? Lollipop Ladies (and Gents) are still used at some schools – why not promote them to permanent School Zone traffic wardens? Have them pacing up and down the road outside the school preventing stupid children from running into the road. Or why not install teachers from the school itself to patrol the area for the duration of the morning and afternoon School Zones? We always had teachers loitering disinterestedly at the school bus stop of an afternoon until the last child was whisked away by the last bus – surely this is much the same thing? But of course, schools everywhere would claim that this would be entirely impractical because there simply aren’t enough children to supervise for the full 90 minute duration of the School Zone speed limit reduction – tell me something I didn’t already know! Why, then, is it acceptable to bring an entire city to its knees by having every single motorist passing every single school slowed to 40km/h for the full 90 minute duration of each School Zone period, despite there invariably being not a single child in sight for the first and last half hour? It’s truly laughable.

OK, here’s a thought: why can’t ‘stupid people’ fencing be erected along the length of roadway outside and around all schools? I’ve seen it work to marvellous effect in other cities – and not just where schools and children are concerned. Central London, for example, is littered with ‘stupid people’ fencing that prevents stupid people from wandering thoughtlessly into the road and it’s presumably saved countless stupid people from being run over by big red buses, black cabs, horse-drawn Royal carriages, delivery vans, Vespas, bicycles and any number of other vehicles. Why not adopt a similar scheme here in Australia? Not only would it work wonders in the Sydney CBD, where stupid people step thoughtlessly off the footpath with tedious frequency, but it would also be the perfect solution for School Zones. No more 40km/h speed limit reductions; no more speed cameras popping up like giant inanimate meerkats and distracting drivers from the actual job of driving; and no more opportunity for stupid children to wander into the middle of the road and damage my car! Oh but the cost – it would be prohibitive, I’m sure. Far easier to just keep slowing everyone down and make our already over-populated road system just that little bit less enjoyable to use.

In the end, that guy’s still jogging along the footpath faster than I’m driving along the road. I bet he’s never been told to slow down. Which is weird coz at the speed he’s going, I’d hate to think what would happen if a child ran out in front of him!

Meanwhile I hear there was a nasty incident involving a stupid kid running out in front of a snail recently. The snail was fined for speeding through a School Zone.

HORRENDOUS POSSIBILITIES: a world without Facebook


A World Without Facebook

Just imagine it…

The recent public float – and subsequent unceremonious sinking – of shares in Mark Zuckerberg’s social networking behemoth got me to thinking about the true value of Facebook.

Facebook – that microcosm of social consciousness that’s become so much a part of everyday life for so many. Something like 900 million people worldwide are more than happy to use it for free; far fewer, it seems, were willing to pay the price – quite literally – of becoming a shareholder. Within a week of the float, the Facebook share price had lost 15% of its IPO (Initial Public Offering) value. What shareholders there were promptly sued Marky Mark & The Floaty Bunch because they reckoned he hadn’t disclosed ”a severe and pronounced reduction” in revenue growth forecasts while he was busily pitching the big stock market début to anyone who cared to listen. The contributing factors were many and varied and, frankly, a bit jargony and a bit financey-sharemarkety-boring. Let’s just say the short-lived bloom was definitely off the Facebook rose.

All of which begs the question: what’s the true value of Facebook? More importantly, how would life in the 2010s change if we suddenly found ourselves without it?

It sometimes feels like Facebook’s been around forever – look at how long we’ve been ‘checking in’ everywhere we go… actually that feature was only introduced less than two years ago! So it’s not so inconceivable that the Facebook universe could be wrenched from our tenuous grip at any moment. Over the past decade we’ve seen it happen to so many brands with far longer histories than Facebook. At the turn of the century I couldn’t imagine an Australian airline industry without Ansett in it, but in March 2002 the Ansett Airlines brand flew off into the sunset (or more to the point, it didn’t!) for the last time, after 66 years in service; in 2010 General Motors shut its 84-year-old Pontiac shop just as the rest of its brands – not to mention the rest of the American auto industry – were also on their knees; just last year, Rupert Murdoch closed down The News of The World after nearly 168 years of (arguably some of the world’s trashiest) publication, largely off the back of a ‘phone hacking’ scandal. So what’s to save an eight-and-a-bit year old social networking service when things head south? The next generation of digitally inclined teenagers might turn their backs on social networking altogether – or, worse still, they could all sign up to a new social network; Zuckerberg might go postal; massive delusions of grandeur could eventually see the founder of everyone’s favourite waste of time disappear up his own arse; his co-founder Eduardo Saverin might yet come up with a plan so ingenious, so evil, that Zuckerberg will rue the day he ever crossed him – he might invent an alternative to Facebook that’s so utterly brilliant (think Google+) and has such staggering reach (think Google+) that it steals every single Facebook user away forever… but none of these alternative endings is nearly as interesting as considering how the Facebook-savvy world would change if the big blue ‘F’ was switched off for good!

Status Updates: there’ll be no more of this business of updating everyone we’ve ever met about our every waking thought. No, we’ll just have to start remembering to tell people the kinds of things we would’ve posted as a status update… if we can remember them! The immediacy of the Facebook world has probably eaten away at our ability to remember very much at all. It’s actually a bit frightening: we’ll have to have… wait for it… actual conversations with people about… wait for it… things they don’t already know! WTF!?! Having actual conversations with people, face-to-face or over the phone, maybe by email or instant messenger or even, God forbid, by sending them a hand-written letter through the post?!? And having to tell them, retrospectively, about things we’ve done that they don’t already know about?! How quaint! And to respond to our news of travels and outings and general ruminations of the day at the office or the world at large, our friends will actually have to do something that doesn’t involve them typing a comment, using assorted punctuation marks to form something approximating a facial expression, or clicking ‘Like’. Imagine that – a world where giving the ‘thumbs up’ reverts to a hand gesture that we physically make with our actual thumbs… where a smiley face involves a movement of actual facial muscles… or where we can no longer respond to an actual question, asked with the expectation of actual answers, by pressing a button with a picture of a thumb on it! It’s almost too much to comprehend.

‘Travelogs’ and Holiday Snaps: when friends go away – be it to another city for a couple of nights with work, down the coast for the weekend, to another state for a fortnight or overseas for a month – we’re going to have to… wait for it… wait for it! But even worse than the prospect of not immediately knowing where they are, what they’re doing or how they’re feeling is that we’re going to have to either wait until they send us some kind of written, verbal or photographic evidence of their happy trails, or… wait for it… wait until they come back from wherever they went and tell us about it! I feel a slide night coming on…

Check-Ins: of course everyone always uses the check-in feature for Facebook’s originally prescribed purpose: to tell all our Facebook friends where we are so they can all join us. The inherent flaws with this proposition are many and varied, not least of which is that I don’t necessarily want all 293 of my Facebook friends to turn up at the 30-seat café I’m currently enjoying a relaxing Sunday brunch in; nor do I expect my friends in the UK, the US or Europe to stump up for the $2000 airfare needed to convey them here; nor, for that matter, would I expect to still be sitting here, mulling over my finely crafted scrambled eggs, oily mushrooms and too-thick toast, when they finally arrived to join me 40 hours later; and don’t even get me started on the 75% of my Facebook friends who I’m never likely to actually see from one year to the next, much less spend a lazy Sunday morning brunching with. All of that having been said, with the disappearance of Facebook itself comes the complete absence of any choice in the matter whatsoever. If you ever dreamt of 293 friends swarming into your favourite café in search of you but were still waiting for it to happen – well let’s face it, you’ve a whole lot more to be concerned about than the removal of either Facebook or choice from your life!

Event Management: we’ll have to revert to sending e-invites again! Or, even worse, posting invitations in the mail! Who does that any more, other than for weddings!? Honestly, it’s so high maintenance: we’ll have to physically go to a newsagent or stationer and buy a packet of party invitations, then collect everyone’s addresses (coz, be honest, how many friends’ addresses do you actually know, much less have written down!?), then write-up all the tedious details of the event on the invitations by hand, put all the invitations in envelopes, put stamps on all the envelopes, then pop all the envelopes into one of those big red things with the curved tops and the rectangular slot in the top that Australia Post vans seem to spend an inordinate amount of time not collecting anything from! We’re gonna have an R.S.V.P. date on them too and a return address or phone number to send confirmation of attendance to. So far, it’s taken sixteen weeks to prep for a birthday party… and it isn’t even a significant number! After going to all this trouble, mark my words – we will keep track of who responds! This’ll sort the wheat from the chaff, big time!

Free Publicity: businesses, bands, charities… they’ll all have to resort to legitimate, old-school advertising. No more big blue ‘F’ in the corner of their print adverts. No more online traffic that costs them $0. No more in-built reporting to tell them how many people have visited. No more allowing the great unwashed to ‘interact’ with their page or provide immediate warts-n-all feedback on their products or services. Nup, it’ll be back to the drawing board for businesses without Facebook: they’ll have to pay for it all. Or get one of those silly people to dress up in a furry animal costume and stand on the footpath looking as unenthusiastic as possible as they wobble an oversized sign about – you know the ones I mean, those great big wobbly cardboard signs that nobody wants to look at, the ones that might just as well be a giant comedy hand for all the business they (don’t) drum up!

Centralised Messaging: With Facebook six feet under, so too will our access to centralised instant messaging and message repositories be removed. www.icq.com and www.hotmail.com will see a massive reversal of fortunes, as the disappearance of Facebook from the online landscape sees former users reverting to the old, ever-reliable instant messaging software and web-based email repositories that they thought they’d waved goodbye to before Justin Bieber could walk.

Tracking down long-lost school friends: there’s only one thing to say here: they’re gonna stay long-lost! If you wanna track them down, just hope you bump into them in JB Hi-Fi one day and actually recognise them, coz without Facebook that dream of reuniting with all those old school chums you haven’t seen since 1985 will be dashed to pieces on the rocks of hope, just as surely as the old sloop Charlotte was lost off Port Jackson in 1808!

Stalking someone and knowing everything about their day-to-day existence without ever actually interacting with them: yes, we know you’re out there. Sometimes you’re clever enough not to let the cat out of the bag but occasionally, very occasionally, you slip up and we hear you recounting a story we know we’ve never told you anything about! Actually, you’re just plain spooky so it’s no great loss that you won’t be able to conduct yourself in such a disturbingly sedentary way any more… still, I’m sure it’ll take no time at all for you to re-adjust to creeping through bushes and lurking outside windows as you go about the business of stalking your prey. Weirdo.

OK, so it doesn’t sound like much when framed as flippantly as all that. But how would you cope? I challenge you to challenge yourself to shut yourself off from Facebook for a month. Even a week. I speak from experience when I say that if you’re a regular user, as I am, I guarantee you’ll notice a significant difference within 24 hours.

And it ain’t all bad.

JOURNEY: a word for all seasons?


Been on any good journeys lately? I have.

I went on a journey down to South Australia’s wine regions with some friends last month and had a blast! The week before, I’d been on a journey to Melbourne for a couple of days which was also a good laugh. I’d already journeyed to Melbourne for a couple of days earlier this year, when I took in a show or two, had a few drinks – as you do. Back in 2010 I went on my first journey to the USA, where one of the SUVs we trundled about in was a Dodge Journey – so many journeys, so little time! Last year I took my Mum on a journey to Europe to visit my brother for her 70th birthday and at the end of this year I’ll be visiting my one-time childhood home for the first time in twenty-five years, when I embark upon a pre-Christmas journey to Perth. While I’m there, I plan to make several somewhat shorter journeys to explore Perth, south-west WA and the Margaret River region. Our airborne journey back to Sydney’s gonna be on Christmas Day too – what a hoot of a journey that’ll be!

I do road-based journeys too. Not many, granted, and they rarely take me far from home, but it’s not all about keeping our airlines afloat: in August last year I took my first road-based journey down to Kangaroo Valley, which was really nice. I also make frequent road journeys between Sydney and my old hometown of Newcastle to visit Mum and friends and what-not.

So all told, that’s quite a few journeys.

Now I think about it, my life is a non-stop cavalcade of journeys! Only yesterday, I journeyed from home to the supermarket and back – sadly my stinking hangover made it known, loud and clear, that this was to be the absolute limit of the day’s journeying. Today I made the journey from home to the gym and back again; while I was at the gym, I even managed a 7.4km journey without going any further than the two metres separating the cross-trainer and the treadmill! Tomorrow, as with most weekdays, I’ll journey from home to the railway station by foot, then I’ll journey into the CBD by rail, then I’ll journey from the station to the office on foot again and, once inside the building, I’ll probably get through the lion’s share of the journey from the lobby to Level 1, where my desk is, by taking the stairs – or maybe the lift, if I’m feeling that special brand of laziness that’s peculiar to Monday mornings. Needless to say there’ll also be a very small journey from the stairwell or lift to actually get me to the desk itself and, once I’m firmly ensconced in the day’s workload, there are sure to be countless other micro-journeys by foot between my desk and the kitchen, my desk and the bathroom, my desk and someone else’s desk, my desk and meeting rooms on other floors of the building – the latter of which, I’ve just realised, I’ll obviously also have to get to by taking the stairs or using a lift – a journey within a journey! O. M. G.! How exciting tomorrow’s going to be!

With so many actual journeys already crammed into my life on a daily basis, how do I find room for all the others? Coz I don’t know about you, but journeys are freakin’ everywhere! I hear and see the word so many times every day that I’m about ready to tell the next person who says it exactly what journey I’d like them to go on – preferably a very long one that takes them somewhere far, far away from me!

Not that I have anything against the word itself – I really don’t, it’s a very nice word. I generally enjoy the way ‘j’ words roll off the tongue and ‘journey’ is certainly no exception. Although it’s still in reasonably frequent use in the UK, where it describes everything from a bus ride along the High Street to a holiday abroad, it’s always had a touch of Ye Olde Worlde formality about it in Australia; in fact, I doubt it’s been in broad circulation as a day-to-day word of choice for the average Australian since my dear old Grandma was about 12 – and she’d be 99 this month if she was still with us! But what a resurgence it’s had in the 21st century! It mightn’t be so bad, if only it wasn’t so rarely used to describe an actual journey. Frankly, I blame the “Big Brother” and “Idol” franchises – I don’t recall there being an overabundance of journeys before Gretel Killeen started consoling evicted Big Brother housemates by reminding them of the highlights and (mostly) lowlights of their “Big Brother journey”; shortly afterwards, wannabe-starlets who’d been prematurely ejaculated from the “Australian Idol” competition were exiting stage left in a blubbering heap, while the audience was reminded of their “Australian Idol journey”.

Ten years on and it seems the word is now used to describe practically everything, good or bad. I swear I heard ‘journey’ used at least three times in 30 seconds during a work presentation last week, with each instance describing something entirely different. And that’s really the crux of the problem: the sheer volume and endless variety of journeys one can take on any given day – sometimes without even knowing it – is bewildering! Let’s try translating some of them, starting with all the variations of ‘journey’ in its most basic form, before progressing to some of the more complex variants:

  • ‘journey’ (1) – a process someone or something has to go through to reach some kind of outcome;
  • ‘journey’ (2) – the execution of a company’s plan for how to keep their business prosperous over time;
  • ‘journey’ (3) – navigating some make-believe pathway between two points in time, one or either of which could be either known or unknown;
  • ‘journey’ (4) – what happens between episode 1 and the point at which your sorry ass is kicked off a reality television program – along with your wok, microphone, renovation materials, catwalk, rucksack, magic tricks, dancing shoes or whatever else you’ve used to complete the ‘journey’ thus far;
  • ‘journey’ (5) – getting yourself through ‘life issues’;

Yep, apparently all of those things are a journey. Confused yet? If you allow yourself to go on the journey, I’m sure it’ll all fall into place. And if not, I’m almost certain there’s someone who can help you out:

  • ‘journeywork’ – how you get yourself through a ‘life issue’;
  • ‘journey practitioner’ – apparently, someone who can help with your ‘journeywork’;
  • ‘journey therapist’ – a variety of ‘journey practitioner’;
  • ‘customer journey’ – everything that happens between the moment you decide you want something and the moment you actually get it;
  • ‘life journey’ – everything that happens between the moment you’re born and the moment you die;
  • ‘journey of discovery’ – learning something; analysis or research undertaken to derive some level of understanding of a particular set of circumstances;

Looks like ‘journey’ really has become a word for all seasons.

Just don’t use it when you’re actually going somewhere – you’ll only confuse people.

TEN THINGS I HATE ABOUT NEW. Matt’s Old Man Rant about the ways of the modern world: The Dog’s Bollock是s?


The English language is under assualt…

Please, for your own safety, do not be within striking distance of me when making comments that seek to justify the bastardisation of the English language that we see all around us in 2012.

I’ve never been a violent man, not in a strike-out-at-you-with-clenched-fist kind of way at least. There aren’t too many things that genuinely get my blood boiling, but one of them is definitely language; more specifically, the mis-use of language, particularly wherever a mobile device or anything internet-related is concerned.

Don’t get me wrong: I’m not talking about internet jargon or “txt spk” here. The likes of ‘lol’, ‘soz’, ‘c u l8r’, ‘gr8’ and ‘roflmao’ do serve some purpose, even if only to allow lazy people who probably can’t spell anyway to generate and send unimportant messages tens of seconds faster than they otherwise might have. I guess that’s just how the kids roll these days. Coz it’s clearly all about speed of response when notifying someone of the wholly implausible scenario that you just laughed so hard you rolled on the floor as a consequence… things sure haven’t improved much since the equally dubious olden-days claim that “I laughed my head off”, have they? I never really managed to believe that one either! At any rate ‘lol’ and co aren’t real words, so I’m never too bothered how and where they’re used.

Actually, my real beef – at least for the purposes of this post – isn’t even the mis-use of the English language (although that is undeniably a significant beef of mine, as anyone who knows me well enough will attest!). No, my real beef is that too many people have become so flippant, so arrogantly disrespectful of the English language as to believe it’s OK to not care about misplaced punctuation marks, words that are typically used incorrectly, even spelling, so long as the intention behind what’s been written is understood. And besides, you can get away with all kinds of stuff online these days and nobody cares, so….

Ummm… que???

Aside from being disingenuous in most cases, it’s totally offensive to the beauty, elegance and musicality of the written word. Why disingenuous? Because in my experience, this old chestnut’s typically the refuge of those who don’t have an especially strong grasp of spelling, punctuation or grammar to start with. I say embrace it!; own your grammatical defectiveness! If you just don’t get it, blame the complete absence of grammar from the primary school English syllabus in this country since the 80s; if you just don’t care, go all out and admit you couldn’t give a flying fuck one way or the other! Just don’t resort to piss-poor excuses and flippant dismissiveness. In the end, not caring is far more offensive than not knowing. Neither the device you’re using nor the forum or context in which you’re using it are in any way responsible for the fact that you can’t spell and that you feel an innate need to bust out an apostrophe before the ‘s’ in every plural!

And while we’re on the topic, don’t get me started on rogue apostrophes… oops, too late! Seriously, what’s with the apostrophe thing? Let’s look at an example:

THE DOG’S BOLLOCK’S

Now a slightly different take:

THE DOG’S BOLLOCK是S

I replaced the apostrophe before the ‘s’ in ‘bollocks’ with a random Chinese character. I’ve never seen the Chinese character before and I don’t have a clue what it means.

What do the two sentences have in common? Very simply, they’re both wrong; more specifically, the presence of the apostrophe in the word ‘bollocks’ is as redundant as the Chinese character. Go with me on this one – it’s an analogy I’ve used to reasonably good effect over the years: using an apostrophe without being able to explain why you’ve used it or what it does serves as much purpose as chucking a random character from a foreign language into the middle of an English word – i.e. it serves no purpose whatsoever. The rule of thumb is pretty simple: if you don’t know what it’s for or can’t explain what it does, don’t use it!

But then, there’s always the possibility that you don’t actually know that what you’re doing is wrong. So if you’re lucky enough to have someone in your life who’s willing to edumacate you to your grammatically defective ways, the very least you can do is show your respect to the language you speak by putting what you’re taught into practice. Never mind your chocolates, oysters, honey or chillis… if you’re like me, there’s no aphrodisiac like the buzz you get from bringing to life a sentence that’s correctly constructed in every way!

When I put it like that, though, I doubt anyone’s like me.