Katy Guest: Rant & Rave (02/10/11)


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The Independent Online


The wife of the Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming has come under fire for sneaking into his mistress's house and walking away with her cat. She had "no intention" of stealing the animal, Christine Hemming said, and "no recollection" of taking it. "I do not recall, Your Honour" is a poor excuse, but it's not as bad as what my friend heard when her cat was stolen. "I simply feed him, and then night falls, and so I lock him in," said the neighbour. "But he's my cat," pleaded my friend. "I bought him and immunised him and insure him and love him."

"Clearly your cat prefers me," retorted the pet thief. The fact is, if the neighbour coaxed in my friend's child with sweets and then locked the door at night time, the child would probably end up staying, too. But that doesn't mean that the neighbour would then own him. The truth is that catnapping does make you a bad person, whatever your excuse.


As someone who has mysteriously morphed lately from an "Is that Miss Guest?" into an "Is that Mrs?", I applaud the attempts of feminists in France to ban the word "Mademoiselle". To be fair, I haven't necessarily aged beyond recognition in the past six months, but I am buying a house with my beloved, which could explain why form-fillers now assume that I must be married. I've noticed, however, that he never has to answer the question: "Is it Mr or Master before your name?" That's because marital status is completely irrelevant! So why is mine still a "required field" on a form?

Recently, it embarrassed a Kwik Fit fitter who had to fill in my name and title. Neither he nor I could explain how my relationship status might affect the result of my car's MoT. Then there was the supermarket delivery van driver, who seemed to see the word "Ms" as a metaphorical burning bra. But this is not a feminist rant; it is a linguistic one: I am simply neither Mrs nor Miss. Words that no longer have any meaning usually disappear from language. It's about time that they disappeared from forms, too.