Can these trends be stopped?

2007-12-28 00:00

It is the time for resolutions. Come to think of it, I have seldom, if ever, known anyone, including myself, who has made a resolution and seen it through for the year. My break with convention is to identify some resolutions I wish others would adopt.

Banks are inevitably busy these days and one does well to avoid them as much as possible. However, there are things to be collected from time to time and one expects to be able to pop in, fetch the card or cheque book and come out again quickly. Wishful thinking. There is a person at the inquiries counter at the head of a sizeable queue whose business is complicated. The hard-pressed assistant is trying her best, but is not in command of the situation. Resolution: clients with complex queries should be steered away from the inquiries counter into a cubicle where the matters may be addressed by someone senior enough to solve the problems expeditiously. It would be a useful resolution to locate the copier machine somewhere closer to the people who have to make the copies. And where does the bank store all these thousands of copies that have to be made of ID documents and utility accounts? Will there ever be a reason to look at them?

I resent the demise of the adverb. I thought that it was only South African cricket commentators who used adjectives ubiquitously, thereby revealing that their knowledge of the game far exceeds their ability to speak English properly. Bowlers in all countries “bowl quick” and in other contexts as well adverbs are conspicuous by their absence. What is peculiarly South African, however, is the phrase “superbly well”, a legacy of Hansie Cronjé. This prime example of tautology has come about, I suspect, because of the reluctance to use the adverb in its pure form. Resolution by all who speak in the public domain: restore the adverb to its rightful place. While they are about it, they might suspend the use of “awesome” for a respectable period and remember that “comprise” should not be used with “of”.

Resolution by supermarket cashiers: to attend exclusively to the customer instead of carrying on a conversation with a colleague or acquaintance. And taxi drivers might resolve to stop hanging their right arms out of the window. This is unlikely, however, as this is a means whereby they may convey easily an intention to change lane. While the average motorist chooses a lane appropriate to his or her direction of travel, a taxi driver looks for gaps, weaving from one to the other to gain that slight advantage that will improve the day’s takings. We, in turn, should resolve to be more tolerant of this entrepreneurial, but essentially selfish, spirit.

Among the most interesting characteristics of the modern day is the importance of the cellphone call. Not so long ago (and even now, come to think of it), secretaries were employed to keep telephone callers at bay. Bosses were not always available and there were times that they simply could not be reached. The sky did not fall in. Nowadays, people find it impossible to resist the call of what Zulu-speaking people, I’m told, call “the cricket in the pocket”. Even the most mundane calls have assumed an urgency which brooks no delay. Thus, it is quite common for people to receive calls — and take them — during the course of a meeting, much to the annoyance of others in the gathering. I once attended a meeting where the speaker, just as he greeted the audience, was distracted by his cellphone. Instead of switching it off and apologising to his audience, he stepped away from the podium and took the call. He did not even apologise on the resumption of his speech. Resolution: to treat the cellphone as a modern convenience and not a dictator of behaviour or something from which one cannot be separated.

I am at an age when it is acceptable to be a pedant. And I will not resolve to stop being irritated by these contemporary trends.

• Andrew Layman is a former headmaster and now the CEO of the Pietermaritzburg Chamber of Business.

Join the conversation! encourages commentary submitted via MyNews24. Contributions of 200 words or more will be considered for publication.

We reserve editorial discretion to decide what will be published.
Read our comments policy for guidelines on contributions. publishes all comments posted on articles provided that they adhere to our Comments Policy. Should you wish to report a comment for editorial review, please do so by clicking the 'Report Comment' button to the right of each comment.

Comment on this story
Comments have been closed for this article.

Inside News24

Traffic Alerts
There are new stories on the homepage. Click here to see them.


Create Profile

Creating your profile will enable you to submit photos and stories to get published on News24.

Please provide a username for your profile page:

This username must be unique, cannot be edited and will be used in the URL to your profile page across the entire network.


Location Settings

News24 allows you to edit the display of certain components based on a location. If you wish to personalise the page based on your preferences, please select a location for each component and click "Submit" in order for the changes to take affect.

Facebook Sign-In

Hi News addict,

Join the News24 Community to be involved in breaking the news.

Log in with Facebook to comment and personalise news, weather and listings.