This blog is for everyone who uses words.

The ordinary-sized words are for everyone, but the big ones are especially for children.

Wednesday, 16 March 2016

Nuts and Bolts: the lure of the obscure.

It's long been the case that one of the best ways to get attention is to be wilfully obscure.

In the olden days people played tricks with postal addresses on envelopes:


is a well-known example,* and I treasure Jill Selwood's letter to The Telegraph newspaper in 2012 in which she tells of a envelope addressed to what she insists was a very pleasant Birmingham Member of Parliament which arrived bearing only the legend 'The Rat of Birmingham'.

It's often been said, and sometimes proved by example, that a letter that's been ignored when written in the local language will be answered with respect and dispatch when sent in some vanishingly obscure dialect of the Inner Himalayas.

And nowadays we have Twitter.

I'm not entirely sure what this Twitter exchange is about, but Argos is a shop that sells technology, and this, as far as I can tell, is the modern equivalent of sending a complaint in Serbo-Croat:

@Argos_Online YO wen u gettin da ps4 tings in moss side? Ain't waitin no more. Plus da asian guy whu works dere got bare attitude 
@BadManBugti Safe badman, we gettin sum more PS4 tings in wivin da next week y'get me. Soz bout da attitude, probz avin a bad day yo.

I'm glad to see it's a ploy that works just as well as it ever did.

Now all I need is a dictionary to work out what on earth it's all about.

Word To Use Today: Um...I don't think I could say safe with a straight face, even if I knew what it meant, but I might manage probz. Probz is, I believe, a form of probably, which comes from the Latin probābilis, that may be proved, from probāre, to prove. 

*That is to say, John Underwood, Andover, Hants (Hants is the abbreviation for the English county of Hampshire. What the t and, indeed, the n are doing in there I have no idea at all). This is a very clever puzzle, though of course it doesn't give the poor postman nearly enough information to deliver the letter. Luckily, as far as I can see from the phone book, there isn't a John Underwood who lives in Andover.

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