Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Abuse and Misuse of Language

This morning In a news report I read a succinct announcement by BC Ferries about possible changes to service between Vancouver and the mainland:

It is contemplated that the Major Routes Strategy will challenge historically established notions of how BC Ferries' service is delivered to the mid-island corridor, and will require changes in customer behaviour.

No errors in spelling, punctuation or grammar. But what did it mean? I imagined someone in the upper reaches of management, chin on hand like Rodin's Le Penseur, contemplating not the meaning of life, or even the amount of his forthcoming bonus, but what ferry route to cut. I pictured Major Routes Strategy challenging Historically Established Notions to a duel. Swords or pistols? And what were these historically established notions? Idle thoughts arising from great events of the past? How would the service now be delivered? By sail, in order to save fuel? But how do you sail down a corridor?  Most intriguing were the required changes in customer behaviour. What would these be? In my experience, ferry passengers have always behaved well enough. Perhaps, now, they would be forbidden from complaining about rising fares under penalty of walking the plank.

It is hard to imagine a greater abuse of language than this. Why do people write this way?

Later, I listened to a CBC report on the proposed changes. The interviewer asked affected passengers the really intelligent question: "How do you feel about this?" 

And then, somewhere in the course of this bulletin, a member of the public spoke about "a whole nother thing". An unorthodox use of language, but I understood him perfectly!

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

An Incident on Mayne Island

The lights were going out all over the island.

We lost power on Mayne Island this morning. I had gone to pour my first coffee of the day only to find that the coffee maker had shut off in mid-stream. Caffeus interruptus, as it were. If you're a coffee lover, you can imagine how I felt: that moment of anticipation and then despair, followed by a yearning for the coffee that wasn't there. When would the power come back on? The stuff in the freezer could look after itself. I needed a coffee.

Perhaps I would find out what was happening on the Mayne Island Info Facebook page. I have to confess to a certain ambivalence, even hypocrisy, when it comes to smartphones and Facebook. Like other members of my generation, I rail against youth standing around in circles, texting and checking up on their friends instead of talking to each other. But when I'm alone with my phone and I've read my messages and the online newspapers, I may turn to Facebook and lurk for a while. Just for something to read.

Two pages I quite enjoy. One is the Mayne Island Buy and Sell and Freebies Page. Here you will find everything including the kitchen sink. The other is the Mayne Island Info page. This is what I read:

"Did anyone else just lose power? Ours just went off on Mt Parke." Other comments followed. Power was off at Miners Bay, Bennett Bay, Bluff Way and David's Cove. Probably all over the island.

I decided to go out. Perhaps one of the coffee shops would have an auxiliary generator. I arrived at the bakery which usually offers a fine dark roast. Other islanders had converged with the same thought in mind. No coffee yet, but someone was working on a jury rig. Could be fifteen minutes. But others were in line before me with their tongues hanging out.

I drove on to Farmgate, the source of the best sandwiches, not only on the island but in the world. Try one if you don't believe me. But there was no coffee. Don, the genial host, told me he would have an auxiliary generator in a month, but I couldn't wait that long. Desperate, I headed back to the bakery.

By now the first jug had been consumed. I had to wait another ten minutes and then it was ready. I returned to my table and took my first sip. It was deeply satisfying!

I looked out the window. It was a typical Mayne Island day for this time of the year. As usual, rain was forecast, but of course the sun was shining, gilding the green of the fields and the blue of the sea. Ferries crossed in Active Pass. I savoured the coffee and the moment.

Suddenly the lights went on. I returned to my cabin to find that that the coffee maker had finished its brew. I wondered what had caused the power outage. I knew where to find out. There I read:

Apparently the tree trimming crew had an incident near Fern Hollow.

An incident? For us it was an Event. Different routines, unexpected encounters, new conversations, the talking point of an hour. I poured myself another cup of coffee.