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Tony Allen: And finally … Communication – dead or alive!

Jun 26, 2015
How many kisses are appropriate when texting one’s bank manager? I’m not sure what the protocol is these days but it seems to change exponentially.

I had a text the other day from a young lady at the boiler repair company, Kindleby, I think her name was, or something like that. Anyway she was advising me by text, about the time of arrival for one of their repairers, and she included two kisses. So it’s all getting a little bit confusing. And the quantities appear to be increasing; I’m now getting as many as four on some occasions. Mind you, that was from the paper shop.

In addition, we had new neighbours move in just before Christmas. We introduced ourselves, but at that stage had only met the new lady. Three days later we received a seasonal card which stated: With Lots of Love from Bill Julie and Children - plus the obligatory four kisses. So what I‘m trying to say here is that it seems as if we are becoming increasingly familiar in our written and verbal relationships.

Let me give you an example of how this can be a problem. My daughter-in-law had occasion to phone the head teacher at my Grandson’s school. Having sorted out the problem she then thanked him, said goodbye and, as she was putting the phone down, heard herself saying ‘Love You!’ Unfortunately life does not have a re-wind button.

This also applies to hugs – now everyone gets a hug.  I had a call from one of the lady wife’s friends the other day asking to speak to her. I think I confused the situation when I think I said that I would get her as she was outside giving the milkman a cuddle!

Surely it’s worth considering that we must be creating all sorts of problems by not leaving ourselves any verbal and emotional room for manoeuvre.

Let me put this another way. Once when the kids were young, one of them described an especially creamy cake as ‘awesome’. I retorted (yes, ok maybe pompously) “If you are going to describe a cream cake as awesome, what word would you have left to describe, for example, your first sight of Mount Everest?” I don’t think I received a reply, but I hope that this makes the point.  If this process continues, how are we going to express our true emotions when everyone gets a kiss, everyone gets a cuddle and we tell everyone how much that we love them? I did try this once and it nearly led, not only to divorce for infidelity, but also to a degree of unpopularity within the neighbourhood.

Don’t get me wrong, I am truly not against texts or emails etc. On the contrary. In fact I believe  that it is all very encouraging when you consider that within recent memory the art of letter writing was considered dead and as far as punctuation was concerned………………

In fact, we now live in a world where written communication in its many computerised guises now takes precedence over spoken forms of communication - almost the first choice; and that’s probably good from a business point of view.  And what about punctuation? Well that’s essential too – compare:

“I don’t think I like you”

“I don’t think; I like you!”

And spelling? Somebody once remarked that spelling is nothing more than a load of letters just jumbled together. Well that’s sort of true but I prefer to put it like this: kjgikjhkjhl! But of course there is really no need now to spell anything wrongly, it’s all there for us – although sometimes I have got into trouble with predictive text (sorry Andrew!).

So yes the art of letter writing has been reintroduced and the written word is gradually taking over from the spoken word. But returning to our initial theme, perhaps this has led to an increase in familiarity and maybe we are now too overt in our habits. Maybe sometimes we do still feel the need to hide behind the carapace of non-involvement.

But is overfamiliarity really a new phenomenon? Probably not because what about phrases like: ‘Yours faithfully’ – this from somebody writing to tell you that they are running off with your partner? Or Lord Halifax ending a letter to his butler, stating: I remain, your obedient servant?  Going back as far as the Victorians, they certainly had a series of codes and signals for explicit behaviour, so maybe they simply indulged in more hypocrisy than we do. On the other hand – maybe not.

Whichever way you look at it and whatever your current opinion, we each have to work out whether this is all a good or a bad thing. I’ll leave it to you to decide – I’m still trying to make up my mind!

Love you.


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