Not-So-Private Lives

Ah! There you are. Come in, come in – do close the door, there’s a good reader. Now, I imagine you’ve been wondering why I sent for you. You see, something is troubling me and – unsurprisingly – it’s a something not wholly unrelated to Big Social. It’s message control, reader mine, and how one manages to maintain it.

I’m talking from a corporate viewpoint, obviously – as far as personal use of social goes, well, how you present yourself is unfortunately up to the individual selfing, trolling, lolling halfwit. I sometimes feel there should be a Ministry of Social, to protect – by force if necessary – the limp-brained feeble buffoons who believe it a good idea to share pictures of themselves sleeping in a nice pool of sick – however recruits to the Ministry would likely be deeply into sharing content and unnorming privacy and it’s jackboots we need, not Crocs.

Recently, I drew up a corporate Use of Social Media policy (bear with me – sounds dull, is important) not because I wish to stop people using social media (actually, I do, but that’s just me) but because I wanted to highlight the possible pitfalls of confusing professional and personal, provide some examples of good and bad practice and spell out potential consequences. One could just block Facebook and Twitter at work (and some do) but a) it seems a bit Draconian (I’m getting soft in my dotage) b) hands up who’s got a smartphone? and c) just wait ‘til they get home.

There’ll be some, I know, who will be outraged at the lack of trust this displays and others who will maintain that employees should be actively encouraged to use social media to promote their companies, organisations and brands.

Thing is – like it or not – social media are communications tools. As already stated – how the individual manages the communication of their personal brand is no business of mine. (The Ministry of Social – like Robocop. But with an attitude.) But communication of corporate brand messages is best left to the professionals. It is not by chance that people make a living out of being professional communicators, nor is the old belief that ‘anyone can do PR’ actually true. In fact, even in the PR industry itself, there is a high number of people who can’t do PR. Why would you put the fate of your business in the hands of an amateur?

Unfortunately, this is exactly what a lot of organisations seem to be doing. I do not have time, or the will, to go into the differences in attitude between public and private sector – suffice it to say that not so long ago I was exposed to a woeful display of social media usage that seemed wholly predicated on the argument ‘I can, so therefore I will’. When questioned further, the answer became ‘people have a right know’. No. Actually – and close your ears those of delicate disposition – people do not always have a right to know. Ask the CIA.

So back to my policy. It went down fine. Most people seemed to understand what it was trying to do. I wasn’t chased down the street with flaming torches and spades. But then I get an email – from an IT security consultant, strangely enough – enquiring whether I’d taken the Human Rights Act of 1998 into account, specifically regarding a right to privacy.

Ooooh, Alanis. (For you, my young reader, that’s Alanis Nadine Morissette, Canadian songstrel.) So, privacy is no longer the norm (according to the Zuckerberg) and anyone can, and does, post anything. Social media are free and all but unregulated – and that freedom is defended vigorously.

But try and establish some right of redress should an employee bring your organisation into disrepute via social and – oh yes – you could be breaching their human right to privacy. A right which the social media world gives away freely, every single day.

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On the subject of social……..

It’s another one from the vaults, dearest blog snorkellers mine. I know, I know – when am I going to stop recycling old ramblings and post something written especially for you, my loyal followers. If you’ll come a bit closer….that’s it…….now listen. No-one reads this stuff. So, if you’ve chanced upon it, rest assured that this was, in effect, written especially for you. It has been sullied by a number of eyeballs that’s in the single digits – that’s single digit pairs of eyeballs, obviously, unless I have readers who a) have only a single eye (never mind a single digit) or have mastered the art of reading with one. Eye. Not digit. Clearly. Anyway – this is new! Fresh! Splendid original thought to inform yours! Opinion-shaping and opinion-leading! Ah – who am I kidding.

Normal service will be resumed at some point in the future and, in the meantime, stop your whining and bask in my genius. Enjoy.

Take the case of Asiana Airlines Flight 214, which crash-landed at San Francisco airport on July 6 2013. Within a matter of minutes, one of the surviving passengers – and nearly all of them did survive – was tweeting about it. (Which puts me in mind of the sign in Twitter’s UK HQ – ‘In case of fire, exit building before tweeting about it’.) No-one appeared to have tweeted from Malaysian Airlines MH370, or updated their Facebook status. Which struck me as being a rather bad sign.

Moving on – and apologies, gentle reader, for that was something of what I believe they call a ‘downer’ – there’s been loads of stuff going down in Social Town this month.(I can’t believe I just wrote that.)

In no particular order, the world wide web is 25 years old and when you think about the damage it’s wrought, the amount of less-than-functional geeks that are now worth billions and the amount of TED-derived drivel that one is forced to listen to every day, it’s a wonder that Sir Tim Berners-Lee hasn’t been chased through the streets and pitchforked to death.

In an echo of a previous column, a passenger on a train alerted the train operating company to sinister banging and scraping noises beneath his seat through the medium of Twitter, rather than through the eminently more sensible – to my mind – ‘run down the train shouting until you find a person in authority’ method. What’s really astounding about this is not that he did what he did, but that he considered Twitter the best way of communicating what could have been imminent disaster.

Advertising on Twitter is getting cheaper – good news for all those of you who are considering placing Twatverts, but not a terribly good reflection of the value of Twitter’s promotional real estate. I thought the trick was – ideally – to create a sense of worth around your ad space (through audience profiling) and thus stabilise or increase price while (and here’s the clever bit) increasing quantity of space for sale. Doesn’t seem to have worked in this case, which has to cast doubts on the overall market valuation of Twitter.

Elsewhere, someone finally noticed that LinkedIn requires an entirely different approach to, say, Facebook or Twitter – one that, arguably, removes it from the ‘social media’ space and places it firmly in business networking. And then there were two. A respected American fund manager saw fit to question the values ascribed to these two (and their recent purchases) and mentioned the ‘b’(*) word. And I don’t mean ‘b*ll*cks’, although it would be equally appropriate.

Facebook decided that what Africa really needs, right, is – erm – access to Facebook and invested a sizeable sum in a manufacturer of drone aircraft, which it intends to use as satellites, off of which to bounce t’internet. This will enable people in some of the poorest countries in the world to join the increasing numbers of people offering to sell their organs (quickly) on the social network. It could be the end of payday loans. Until you run out of organs.

David Cameron pledged a £45m investment into research around the Internet of Things – or M2M communications. Given that this won’t buy you a half-decent app these days, it’s a farcically small amount of money to throw at such a big (and important) topic, one that might – possibly – not just be seen as the Next Big Thing, but (unlike social) actually have some of the qualities of bigness, nextness and thingness. But, better little than never.

Apparently, hackers are now targeting internet-enabled devices. This could, of course, mean that when your fridge contacts your smartphone, prompting you to buy milk, you’ll get home to find that you didn’t need any. What really worries me, of course, is that the fridge won’t bother to tip me off about the milk situation because it’s too busy updating its Facebook status.

(*) Bubble

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There Is No Secret Ingredient…………..

Those of you who – like me – thought ‘kids – how difficult can it be?’ and then went and got yourself a handful, will most likely be familiar with the film classic ‘Kung Fu Panda’ (2008). And I’m not kidding – it is a classic. Those of you who haven’t got kids, and haven’t seen it – stop what you’re doing right now, hie thee to Netflix with alacrity, sit back and enjoy.

So, having just done you a big favour (no worries, you can – as the Americans would have it – get me back later) I am going to reveal a big truth that will benefit us all. (Yes, it’s in Kung Fu Panda. I’ve not gone all Barry Norman on your collective ass not to make a point.)

It comes when Po (the eponymous panda) is running away from his destiny because he doesn’t understand the scroll of the Dragon Warrior. (See? I told you. Brilliant.) His adoptive father is a duck called Mr Ping, a noodle chef, who shares with him the secret of his famous Secret Ingredient Soup.

“The secret ingredient is…..nothing!……There is no secret ingredient.” At which point Po has an epiphany, which is explained, for an audience that is probably quite young and still slightly hard of thinking, when Mr Ping continues “to make something special, you just have to believe it’s special”.

Which brings me to my point. I don’t for one moment believe social media is special, but I am realising that there is no secret ingredient. And, of course, this has been the problem all along – why otherwise sane companies have chucked endless resource at social media (talking to an airline recently – 130 people on their social media team – think about that for a second or two), why organisations with no revenue-generation model are suddenly worth billions and why social media gurus are the rock stars des nos jours. (Probably a bit of an exaggeration, but you know what I mean.)

A mass breakout of Shiny Object Syndrome caused – and still causes – many to believe that social media are special in some way. And as Mr Ping said, the belief is enough to gloss over the inherent non-specialness. Worse, like Mr Ping’s Secret lngredient Soup – only were I to use a food-based metaphor for social media, it would be Secret Ingredient Tripe ‘n’ Onions – it has been assumed that there is, in fact, a secret ingredient. Something that’s not unakin to the philosopher’s stone of ‘virality’.

And, clearly, while these assumptions still hold sway, you average social media guru can get away with charging over £400 for – I kid you not – a Pinterest Marketing Masterclass. (I’m talking about you, Social Media Advance, of London EC2.)

But there is no secret ingredient. The same stuff that has always counted, still counts. There are still about five elements that will make your narrative a story. A picture will still do its business with a thousand words. The difference is that if the social audience like what they’ve seen, they’ll share it virtually, rather than really chatting to their mates about it down the pub.

But that’s it. You don’t need content prepared especially for social, on the basis that it’s somehow different. You don’t need distinct strategies. You don’t need gurus. You don’t need hundreds of people. You do need great customer service and unique product proposition – ‘twas ever thus – and, if you’re going to take part, you should be readily available to respond.

There is, of course, one secret thing about social.

It’s a new class of data called “social data” which are data that people create when they use social platforms like Facebook, Pinterest or LinkedIn – their likes, pins, favourites, retweets, status messages, the content of those messages and the people we are friends with.

Needless to say, I doubt you’ve given anyone permission to gather this data – but they’re mining it anyway.

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The Next Big Thing Has Been Cancelled

Thing about these pre-prepared bits of writing is that a) I have to think of a title (which – and if you’ve any experience of writing you’ll know this – needs to at least nod in the direction of the content, otherewise you’d be guilty of mis-selling and no-one wants to be the blogly equivalent of payment protection insurance, no we don’t) and b) I have to think of a preamble, because they’re actually a bit out of time. Which is not the same as ‘past their sell-by’, no it isn’t. Anyway, this piece is a little bit about the fact that, despite many an effort by the gurus and the evangelisers, there actually aren’t any new social media. There’s two – Twitter and Facebook – two is the number, and the number is two. Never shall it be three, although it might become one. Wasn’t that a terrible song – ‘two become one’? Anyhoo, The Next Big Thing keeps being touted but, actually, under scrutiny, none of it ever stacks up, and the dawning realisation is that there are no NBTs, nor never will be. Here I have a look at Anomo and Whisper.sh. What? (I hear you ask.) Nope. Me neither.

(Also in this piece is a brief diversion into my favourite topic of not-words, with a sighting of ‘tunnelised’. Apparently, there was uproar and outrage in the good ol’ US and A a few days ago when they heard two Popes had been canonised. Seems they think lethal injection is far more humane. (Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.)

I know, I know. I’m an old Luddite, who’d rather be carefully inscribing illuminated script on a wax tablet, to be wrapped in a piece of fine Irish linen, sealed with the reddest of wax, imprinted with a seal (if the seal will hold still, if not, skip this step) and carried in the cleftiest of sticks by the fleetest of footmen, to the office of the Town Crier, in time for its contents to be oh-yea’d all over town. (Life was somehow simpler then.) Which is probably why I’ve only just come across Anomo and Whisper.sh.

Once again, I find myself short of time, patience and wordage – talking of words, as I wasn’t, I heard a perfectly acceptable English person utter the not-word ‘declarate’ just the other day, and read an article by Boris Johnson (Mayor of London) in which he maintained that the M25 would have to be ‘tunnelised’, I despair, truly I do – and I’m not going to bother with source material of references. Believe it, readers mine, or move on.

Anyway, Anomo and Whisper.sh are the two ‘next big things’ in social media. They already have a joint worth estimated to be in the brazillions. (OK, this isn’t true – but then again, I’m writing this now and you’ll be reading it then, and, well, who knows?)

So I thought I could be an early adopter. Finally, my chance to be in at the beginning of something! Sadly, however, it is quite clear that either I am genuinely incapable of grasping the subtle nuance of these two things, the refined essence that lifts them above so much of the mundane clatter that deafens our lives and obfuscates our vision or – and it’s a big one, folks – they’re both further extensions of the relentless ego-driven nonsense that characterises so much of the social space. Guess which I think it is?

So for those who don’t know – and such is my luck that by the time you read this, Anomo will be the médium sociale de choix of Barry, Dave and Helle, and Whisper.sh will have renamed itself SHOUT.grrr – Anomo allows you to interact with others in a similar space without revealing yourself, like Tinder for stalkers, and Whisper.sh, is a forum for selfies with the selfist’s thought written on them.

I’ll give you an example at random: “When I broke up with my ex, she decided to be a whore to try and get me jealous. Honestly I think its (sic) hilarious and I hope she gets an STD.” This charming sentiment attracts responses from like-minded individuals, who in turn, post a picture with their ‘thought’ on it. Eg “Same exact thing happened with me….” Someone shoot me.

Two things spring to mind immediately, one horrifying, one vaguely reassuring. The horror comes from the certain knowledge that it can only be a matter of time before the gurus start claiming that Anomo and Whisper.sh should be key pillars of your marketing strategy.

I read an article recently in which some plank called Gerry Underchuk (or similar) claimed that Snapchat was his main marketing tool right now. (Head in hands, people, head in hands.) The reassurance comes from the almost certain knowledge that these two simply cannot be revenue delivering. (Can they?)

Talking of delivering revenue – and value – I note that nice Mr Zuckerberg (when he’s not selling $1.4bn of shares to pay a tax bill) (or is he?) (maybe he’s simply saying that to cover the fact that he’s taking an enormous amount of money out of the company before it all turns into a rat’s arse?) is developing video advertising for Facebook, because that’s where the money is. Actually Facebook is not the best medium for video, because of the way it’s used, but hey – video works on TV, why not on social?

Hear that click? That’s the sound of something coming full circle.

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Another dotcom bubble?

It’s another one from the vaults. I wrote this in November 2013. Shocking, actually, to see how – in the intervening five months – so many things have changed and moved on. What has stuck – and grown, if you like – is the feeling that Twitter and WhatsApp and the rest simply aren’t worth the stupid sums being paid for them. We’ll see.

$11.2bn. As much as $30bn. As I write, now around $20bn. Oh, yes, dear reader, you know what I’m talking about. And still it doesn’t make a profit. Meanwhile, in what was quite clearly an attempt to start making a profit, I receive a promoted tweet from @BMWUSA asking me to show my support for Team USA, as we approach the winter Olympics.

Erm, an’ thank you most kindly, but why, exactly, would a Welshman with English overtones, resident in London, wish to express support for Team Merca? I’m sure they’re all lovely, with their splendid muscles and super hair and dazzling teeth, but – and it’s a small one, I know – nit-picky almost – they’re from a completely different country to which I have no links whatsoever, unless you count my ancestors’ compatriots’ vain efforts to shape it up a little.

So, a poorly targeted promotional tweet – well, I’m not the target market for much of the TV advertising I sit through (too lazy to reach for the clicker, d’you see), and this is simply the socially medieval equivalent.

But, of course, it isn’t. Because social ain’t TV – there’s no Strictly Come Tumblring or I’m a Celebrity Follower, Unfriend Me! – and promotional tweets aren’t big budget, glossy items, with soundtracks and celebrities and (this is most important, pay attention) paid for in advance.

(When I make this point, I’m thinking about the Louis Vuitton ‘L’Invitation au Voyage’ ad with David Bowie (or is it Tilda Swinton) and Arizona Muse. Not the Cillit Bang ‘Barry Scott in a big purple fighter jet’ ad with Barry Scott.)

No. Promoted tweets are cheap as chips for the tweet promoter. As long as I, the recipient of the promotweet, do not click ‘pon said spamulous item, nor neither follow the issuer of same, then the spamuliser pays nowt. Not a brass farthing. Which, clearly, means that targeting simply isn’t an issue, and is why I’m happy to call this stuff spam.

So now Twitter’s under increasing pressure to demonstrate its revenue model and to show some sign that it could, in future, turn a profit and reward the enormous valuation that’s been put on it.

This means, I’m afraid, considerably more of these poorly-targeted promoted tweets. Is it just me, or can anyone else see a flaw in a business plan that relies on the social equivalent of the Nigerian email scam for revenue generation?

Facebook saw an immediate 16% dip in its share price when ‘senior executives’ revealed that young people were leaving the site – in fairness to it, however, its share price recovered once it was realised that the audience hole was being backfilled with the young people’s parents and grandparents.

But the point remains made – young people, the valuable Holy Grail audience, trendsetters, early adopters, rainmakers – don’t like being sold to through channels they consider they ‘discovered’ or ‘invented’.

They don’t like their feeds being abominated with spamulous commercial messages. They – making a little leap here – don’t like promotweets. Which is, arguably, why the current valuations of various social media are a wee smidge on the high side.

Now we hear about £8bn for Dropbox (actually, I can see why Dropbox might be worth something) and Pinterest securing funding that would value the enterprise at £3.8bn, despite the fact that it has only recently begun to clarify its business model.

I think it’s clear that I don’t think much of social media as marketing or promotional tools. There are too many gurus telling you how to do, and not enough do. The Emperor is risking risqué with his lack of vestements.

But what is increasingly scary is that no-one seems to remember the rush of the lemmings into the tech bubble of the late nineties and what happened in March 2000.

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One from the vaults……….

I wrote this some time ago, for my column. Actually, it’s not a column. It’s three columns and a full page. I know, I know – how do I do it. Every month, you say? Yes. Where is the fecund wellspring of ideas that I must be drinking from? Questions, questions. Read! Enjoy. Or not. Your choice.

Readers, I gasped in disbelief and my goblet of schadenfreude(*) briefly ranneth over as I learnt that ‘Lego Group actively encourages all its senior management to sit exams about social media’. Is this one of the building blocks of their communications strategy, d’you think? (Ba-dum tish.)
It’s all driven by Lego’s director of social media, who must have the gravitas of a lead balloon, the tenacity of a just-dumped limpet with emotional issues and the persuasional ability normally associated with a large man possessed of a gun. And I assume this because Lego’s senior management are not sitting ‘an exam’ – no, as you may have noticed (not much gets past you, I know) it’s ‘exams’.
Genuinely – I despair – on umpteen different levels. What would you fill one social exam with – never mind several exams? Who – in a ‘senior management role’ – would have the time to do this? Who – in a ‘senior management role’ – would, for one moment, consider it a good idea? Who – in a ‘senior management role’ – having been inveigled into taking one exam, would be swivel-eyed loony enough for more?
All that being said – he wrote, turning on a dime – I can see the benefit of trying to teach senior management to get a message across in 140 characters. It would have the dual effect of a) generating appreciation for the fine, and necessary, art of brevity and b) demonstrating what a completely pointless comms tool Twitter actually is.
And, of course, there still isn’t much in the way of alternative. Again, you lot probably came across this weeks ago, but I thought it resonant. It’s one of those internet jokey things – like laughing cats, and dancing babies, but with words and lists – and it attempts to define social media using a doughnut metaphor. (This could all go horribly wrong, I know.) Anyway.
Twitter = I’m eating a doughnut. Facebook = I like doughnuts. Foursquare = this is where I eat doughnuts. Instagram = here’s a photo of my doughnut. YouTube = here I am, eating a doughnut. LinkedIn = my skills include doughnut eating. Pinterest = a doughnut recipe, yay. G+ = I’m a Google employee who eats doughnuts.
Clearly, when what was once hailed as THE socio-economic phenomenon of the 21st century is downgraded to wordplay involving doughnuts, when The Social Network is increasingly abandoned by the young people that it was using to create revenue through advertising – you begin to wonder.
When the slightly-covert appeal of Tumblr is stripped away by Big Purple’s megabucks and commercial focus and analysts question, on the day of the announcement, whether Tumblr actually has the potential to make any money – what you begin to wonder is whether the smoke is drifting and the mirrors are getting a bit smeary.
And, to my mind, there’s a big issue brewing – not so much on the horizon, rather more ‘lookout-yelling-iceberg-from-the-bow-of-the-Titanic’ proximitous – that could forever change (as well as limit) the way social is used and, importantly, can be used. Unsurprisingly, it’s privacy.
Zuckerberg said ‘privacy is no longer the norm’ and with regard to Leveson, to McAlpine and Bercow and in the cases of April Jones and Tia Sharp, like it or not, he’s probably right.
Not all cases directly related to social media, but all highlighting the need for change in how people use social media (it’s not just you talking to your mates, it’s open and indelible), and for greater control on the individual’s use of the internet (encompassing email and social).
And if Zuckerberg doesn’t think privacy is the norm, he should have no problem in handing over your data to the authorities. Changing forever the way people view and use social, and what they share.
And why is Prism trending? *innocent face*
(* My job isn’t perfect, but at least I don’t work at Lego.)

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Word Rage

Here’s a thing that ticks all my boxes – in the same way that The Sound of Music has everything one wants in a film (Nazis, nuns and goats), this story has hippies (actually, an unbeatable combination of American and hippy), made-up words and food trends. I don’t know whether to squeal with delight or explode into incandescent rage and spontaneously combust. At least I know that, working (I use the word loosely) in close proximity to airlines, my ashes would be well taken care of.

So, for your delectation on a wintry Friday, here’s a story from The Wall Street Journal entitled ‘Brooklyn Foodies Supper In Silence’. Do the light clicktastic and have a look for yourselves. OK, OK, I know that you won’t – so many links unclick’d ‘pon, as the Bard might have said, o brave new communications medium that hath such pages in’t. So, as you persist in your churlish reticence and simple bloody-minded refusal to play along, I will tell you what the article says.

In brief, it seems that a restaurant in Greenpoint, Brooklyn (which I believe to be a suburb of the American capital, New Amsterdam), called Eat (got to love that ol’ US no-frills, does-what-it-says-on-the-tinness) recently hosted a pop-up dinner in which all 17 or so guests committed to a vow of silence during the meal. What I think is more surprising here is not that there was a silent rule for the meal, but rather that the guests found it difficult to succeed in the endeavour. There was a threat of plates being taken outside to finish meals in a ‘loudmouth’ fashion. Others went to the toilet to give themselves pep talks – out loud. It is not made plain whether smartphones and other devices were outlawed also – if not, I’m certain others kept their silence by concentrating furiously on Facebook.

Apparently, in the end, the silence became ‘good – the good kind of quiet’. On so many levels I find this beyond strange. The fact that one pop-up silent dinner makes a trend. The fact that the silent diners couldn’t hack it. The fact that silent dining is – in itself – considered so out of the ordinary that it’s newsworthy. The fact that hipsters are so unaccustomed to quiet that they’d never experienced comfortable quiet before. (Only in America, I’m afraid.) it’s not even as if it was the food that rendered the diners silent. No. They had to be ‘implored to ‘speak now, or forever hold your peace” in a rather unhealthy confusion of the spiritual and the corporeal.

How do you think this lot would have managed in Dans Le Noir? (Where you dine in the dark.)

Anyway, so far, so privileged American nonsense. Ridiculous hippies, with tales of ‘silent breakfasts (…) enjoyed at a monastery in the Indian Buddhist pilgrimage city of Bodh Gaya and stints in silence at meditative retreats, (and) hoping to rediscover that pastoral energy in a city-bound context’. ( Oi! Wall Street Journal! This is satire, isn’t it? We’re not actually taking these people seriously? Just checking.)

But then – oh, then. Why is it that our colonial cousins feel that it’s acceptable to select words. seemingly at random, and then forcibly bend them to their will, regardless of context or meaning? And, if they fail in this endeavour, to simply make something up, often without needing to do so, as there are (of course) a plethora of perfectly acceptable words that could be employed in most situations. I suspect it is because the United States and America are, clearly the homes of the brave and the lands of the free and if I can carry a high-powered automatic weapon in public, perfectly legally, wear dubious clothes at will and be umpteen stone overweight as a right, then I can most certainly obligate the American language to manglify itself around my need for expression without thought. I wish to engage mouth without having brain in gear.

Back to our silent dinner – one of the guests (Jessica Laser, a 27-year-old writer from Greenpoint, since you ask) (great name, Ms Laser, btw) who – just in case you missed it – is a writer, had this to say. “I tend to pride myself on my ability to articulate, so I’m eager to see what happens here.” Ms Laser is, by the way, a writer. She is also using the adjective as a verb – which at least shows some arms-length familiarity with the intended meaning – but is, of course, wrong. ‘To articulate’ does not mean ‘to speak’. ‘Articulate’ describes someone who can converse fluently, but it is not (Ms Laser) a doing word.

Thing is, I know where this came from. And it is insidious. A sort of creeping malaise. An American ill. I shall make up a word to describe it. In fact I already have done. Manglify. Only, were I a US citizen, that would not be enough. I would have to go a step further. Yes, gentle reader, I would have to go to ‘manglificate’. So, for example, the perfectly good verb ‘to oblige’ becomes ‘to obligate’ (‘he was obligated’), and – I shudder inside – the generally acceptable verb ‘to converse’ becomes ‘to conversate’ (‘we should conversate around this’). I suspect that the erroneous use of the word articulate was because of a confusion around conversate – and here I will simply say that when language is destroyed based on a misunderstanding over a word that doesn’t exist, all is pretty much lost.

Finally – because I know you’re almost bursting with the desire to know what our silent chums ate, at their inarticulate dinner – I shall tell you what the Quiet Ones aterated for their mute repast. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it was simply too much trouble for Nicholas Nauman (Eat’s 28-year-old managing chef and events planner) to describe his cuisine as organic and locally-sourced, so he called it – or maybe it’s not him (horrible thought strikes), maybe this is everywhere in the colonies – ‘organic locavore fare’.

Herbivore. Carnivore. Locavore. I went on t’interweb. I typed in ‘loca’ and requested a translation. I got the answer I thought I might. It appears that a locavore would be one who mainly consumes Spanish madwomen.

Manglificent!

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