Personal organisers aren't afraid of mice

Share
Related Topics
"Have you noticed the way that people are becoming things these days?" said the lexicologist to us as I came into the pub.

I say "lexicologist" because that's how he likes to think of himself. We call him the "pedant" when he's not around. Actually, we call him the "pedant" when he is around, because he is a pedant, and takes it as a compliment. He is one of those individuals who have the knack of bringing a conversation to a halt with a gentle bit of hair-splitting.

You know the kind. Just when the conversation is spinning along nicely, and someone says that everything is hunky dory, this man will say: "Odd word, `hunky dory'. Wonder where it comes from?" And everyone pretends to be interested in this stunningly uninteresting point, whereas they should tell him to go away and not come back until he has looked it up in a dictionary, and when he comes back, not to tell anyone what he has found out.

I sighed and said: "How do you mean, people are becoming things these days?"

"Well," said the pedant, "I was sitting at my word processor this morning and was switching on my printer to print out something I had written when it occurred to me that in the old days a printer was not a machine at all. It was a person. It was a person with dirty clothes staggering around carrying piles of print carefully tied up with string because all the letters were separate. But say the word printer nowadays and people see a machine. Say the word `trainer' and people think of shoes. A trainer should be a person who goes running with a boxer or shouts at people in a gymnasium, but it's not. It's a bloody shoe."

"There's something in that," said a man called Jim. "After all, when I say I'm going to consult my personal organiser, nobody expects me to turn round to talk to a secretary. All I'm going to do is press a few knobs on a machine."

"There was a time," I said, "when a sprinter was someone who ran very fast, but now it always seems to be a small suburban train.

"A copier used to be someone who copied things. Now it's just a machine that makes photocopies."

"Actually," said a woman behind me. "I think a person who copied things was called a copyist," but she spoke so softly that only I heard her.

"We are agreed, then, that it is a strange modern habit to take activities away from humans and give them to gadgets," said the pedant.

"No," said the landlord, who always like to get into arguments at a crucial stage, "I don't think it's modern at all. I think it has been happening for a long time. What about runners and sleepers and drivers?"

"Runners?" I said. "You mean, beans?"

"Drawers slide on runners," he said. "Trains go over sleepers. Golfers use drivers. Have been for a long time. Nothing new about it."

"What about rulers?" said Jim. "For a long time, rulers were kings and queens. They were people who ruled. Then along came bits of wood a foot long marked out in inches, and they were called rulers, too, but do you suppose the kings and queens got upset about it? Do you suppose they resented sharing their name with a bit of wood?"

"Jumper," said the lexicologist.

"Pardon?" we said.

"Why is a pullover called a jumper? In what way does it jump?

"In what way does it sweat?" said Jim.

"Pardon?" said the lexicologist.

"A pullover is also called a sweater as well as a jumper. But why is it called either? Does a pullover sweat? Does it jump?"

"It's not just humans," said the landlord, looking again for the last word. "It's animals as well that are being turned into things."

"Like moles being turned into your cottage pies?" said someone, and everyone roared with laughter. Don't you just love English pub humour?

"No," said the landlord, who did not love English pub humour. "I was thinking of things like mice. There was a time when a mouse was a small rodent. Now, it is the movable bit on the front of a computer that you fiddle to move the cursor."

"Will someone please please PLEASE tell me what this conversation is about?" I cried. They all turned and looked at me.

"We were trying to see how long we could keep talking while avoiding the subject of the American election, indeed any politics," said the lexicologist sternly.

"That's hunky dory by me," I said apologetically.

"Hunky dory. Now there's an odd word," said the pedant, and we were away again.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Research Fellow in Gender, Food and Resilient Communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: The Centre for Agroecology, ...

Senior Research Fellow in Water and Resilient communities

£47,334 - £59,058 per annum: Coventry University: Our team of leading academic...

Nursery Nurse

£7 - £8 per hour: Randstad Education Leeds: Nursery Nurse Leeds November start...

Compensation and Benefits Manager - Brentwood - Circa £60,000

£60000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Compensation and Benefits Manager - Compensat...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Fathers should have their statutory paternity leave doubled, a think tank has said  

Extended paternity leave is a baby step towards equal parenting

Louise Scodie
 

There's nothing wrong with 'sexting' - everyone has done it

Natasha Devon
Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?
Meet 'Porridge' and 'Vampire': Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker

Lost in translation: Western monikers

Chinese state TV is offering advice for citizens picking a Western moniker. Simon Usborne, who met a 'Porridge' and a 'Vampire' while in China, can see the problem
Handy hacks that make life easier: New book reveals how to rid your inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone

Handy hacks that make life easier

New book reveals how to rid your email inbox of spam, protect your passwords and amplify your iPhone with a loo-roll
KidZania lets children try their hands at being a firefighter, doctor or factory worker for the day

KidZania: It's a small world

The new 'educational entertainment experience' in London's Shepherd's Bush will allow children to try out the jobs that are usually undertaken by adults, including firefighter, doctor or factory worker