John Walsh: btw

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The Independent Online

Could we stop saying "inappropriate" when we mean "wrong"? Ever since Bill Clinton used the prissy circumlocution about his affair with Ms Lewinsky in 1999, it's taken over the world. People no longer say or do terrible things – just "inappropriate" things. Mariella Frostrup, in her Sunday agony column, advised a battered wife that, next time her husband whacked her, she should tell him: "This is unacceptable and inappropriate" – as if he was guilty of breaking some subtle code of conduct, rather than being a prize bastard. Now teachers at a school in Worthing, West Sussex, have banned pupils from drinking Red Bull because, they say: "We found that a small number of children's behaviour was less appropriate after they been drinking these drinks." Less appropriate? You mean it was worse.

* Of all the bloody cheek. The Germans are making fun of British holidaymakers. A week after David Barnish, of Stoke-on-Trent, was awarded £750 damages for the trauma of finding himself on a Greek island in a hotel wholly populated by Germans, the Huns have responded. The newspaper Bild advised readers to avoid six resorts that could be overrun by Brits – the Bay of Palma in Majorca, San Antonio in Ibiza, Playa de las Americas in Tenerife, Ayia Napa in Cyprus, Faliraki in Rhodes and Malia in Crete – and said that Switzerland and Austria, who are hosting the European championships, would be free of a British presence. "Dear Tommies," ran the article, "You don't want to be on holiday with us? No problem. We'll play football without you this summer..." There's no bitch like a German bitch.

* You thought sat-nav was a nightmare combination of nagging and ineptitude? Japanese scientists have invented a robot teddy bear that will sit on your dashboard and tell you where to go. The iXs Research Corporation revealed it to thunderstruck motorists this week. The bear points its owner in the right direction and gives information about local landmarks if you rub its tummy. On the downside, it's programmed to cry, "Watch out!" if you accelerate or brake sharply, and ask, "Have you been drinking?" if it smells alcohol on your breath. By the end of the year, it'll probably offer impromptu lectures about the speed you're doing. Is the world ready for Sanctimonious Nav?

* According to the Times Higher Education magazine, British students are becoming more inventive at claiming "mitigating circumstances" when trying to boost their grades. At Manchester University's School of Arts, 25 per cent of students appealed against their exam results, under the impression that minor personal setbacks would be taken into account. Dead grandmothers were frequent, dead cats were common, and one student asked to be marked leniently because her cat had had kittens and kept her up all night. "Students need to deal with problems as a part of life," says an internal report at Manchester, "rather than excuses for poor performance." Yes but what if the dog really did eat your exam paper?