A Grumpy Old Grammarian

Oh, why can’t the English learn to

Set a good example to people whose

English is painful to your ears?

The Scotch and the Irish leave you close to tears.

There even are places where English completely disappears….

Well, in America, they haven’t used it for years!


 

Reaching Out

With the rise in online shopping and the ability to almost instantaneously communicate with others electronically, there has developed pari-passu, a new vocabulary of words, (often at times neologisms), phrases and acronyms that all generations since the Baby Boomers use with automatic ease and understanding. I am, I fear, as misogynistic and recalcitrant as Professor Higgins in “My Fair Lady”. The point of this rambling preamble is to bemoan the insidious use of the phrase, mostly emanating from businesses in the United States, but sadly in the past few years as well from Australia, of “reaching out”.

“Reaching out” to someone or some entity implies to me at least, that they are in a tiny spot of bother and  need help, so you can imagine that I am a little incredulous when there is a media article along the lines of

”Apple have reported that the dingle-dongle in the latest iPhone has been reported to come unstuck and dangles, in some instances causing bruising to the customer especially if carried in the front pocket. We reached out to Apple for comment.” 

So here we have an insignificant, minor and irritating journalist suggesting that they are sympathetic to a zillion dollar company and there is in the phrase surely an implicit undertaking that the journalist and the media organisation are there to  to help! I mean Apple needs help?

I am not a zillion dollar company but have invariably received such an email when I write to a company with a question, complaint or even a compliment. The phrase is somewhat ’touchy, feely’ and it implies that I am perhaps in a consequent state of suicidal depression and that the respondent understands completely my pain and were it in their power, would pay for psychological support, which sadly is not possible as I am in Australia and they  are in Des Moine, Iowa.

There may be perhaps one situation where ‘reaching out’ to me may be absolutely understandable, indeed appropriate. 

Hi Mr Norton, – Thanks for reaching out to us here at the ACME outdoor online store. We are sorry to learn that the “Yak” snow boot crampons which you purchased last month have come adrift from the boots so to speak and that you have reached out to us, having slipped and fallen into a crevasse on the South Col of the Kumbu Glacier on Mt Everest. As you are almost 13,965 miles from us, it is you understand going to be exceedingly difficult, if not impossible to ACTUALLY reach you, if that was your hope. I trust you understand. If you are able to reach up and grab the lip of the crevasse , is it possible that your sherpa may be able to reach out and grab you? We understand your predicament and once you return to Australia, reach out to us again and we will send you a replacement set of crampons 

What is wrong with the accepted and genuine response  “thanks for contacting us”?

Mere Mortals – Dr Oliver Sacks.

As i sit in the oppressive heat that is summer in Turkey, I learn of the death of Dr Oliver Sacks from disseminated melanoma aged 82. A brilliant communicator who also happened to be an unconventional neurologist.He was a very handsome man, a bikie and champion weightlifter. He described himself as celibate but in his last book, “On the Move” he is open about his homosexuality and the joy of meeting a partner in his mid 70’s. Although I never had the privilege of meeting him, readers will surely undertand it when I say that as a neurologist and openly gay man, I have lost a fellow traveller along the yellow brick road.

Less than 12 months ago, the world also lost Robin Williams, the actor and comedian who portrayed Oliver Sacks in the film “Awakenings”. This was based on the book of the same name by Oliver Sacks in which he described the miraculous response to Levodopa of patients who had survived the great influenza pandemic of 1918 (The Spanish Flu) and subsequently developed severe features of Parkinsons Disease.
There are several remarkable coincidences between these two gifted men. Sacks experimented with LSD and other recreational drugs in the 1950s, describing the consequences in one of his first books “Hallucinations”. Robin Williams took his own life and at autopsy had features of Lewy Body dementia, a progressive neurological degenerative disease presenting in a Parkinsons like manner and with unsettlimg hallucinations.