Monday, September 17

Copywriting Disaster

When the Gnome was a young pup entering the exciting world of the advertising for the first time, he was shown to his desk by a character straight out of Dickens. Tall, thin and with half moon glasses perched upon a beak-like nose, this ghost of copywriters past introduced himself as 'Howard MacMahon esquire' and on arrival at the Gnome's new office, promptly sneered at the computer waiting on the desk by saying 'when I started here all that was on my desk were two pencils and a rubber'.

With the insoucience of youth, the Gnome laughingly suggested this comment immediately confirmed all the rumours he'd heard about girls who work in PR. Howard MacMahon esquire, unmoved to levity by this humourous quip sighed deeply and pointed towards the bookcase adjoining the Gnome's new desk. There, sitting alone on the dusty shelves was a dog-eared yellow paperback, its pages browned from the sunlight seeping across the windowsill.

"This book is Fowler's Modern English Useage. I know you won't read it, nor probably use the wisdom contained within it, but at least you have access to it." And with that he retired from the room to be seen again only rarely, his appearances limited to the impending arrival of a crisis, just like Harry Seldon in the Foundation books.

As it happens the Gnome did read Fowler's, and although he probably doesn't use the wisdom contained within it every day, or in every piece of writing, he has a penchant for its stuffy put-downs for those who mangle the Queen's English.

Which brings us to this advert, presumably written by someone without the unfettered access to Modern English Useage the Gnome so enjoyed in his youth.

Is anything right with it? Let's start at the top.


Why the extra punctuation of the comma? That's just plain wrong. As is the word order... Wouldn't 'see it, report it, stop it' be more appropriate? How can you stop it before you've seen it? And surely there are Health and Safety implications for encouraging passengers to become 'have-a-go heroes' with the suggestion they stop it before reporting it to the authorities?

Violence towards both passengers and members of staff will not be tolerated

Well that's good to know if you are a young hoodie looking for a little recreational violence. So long as you target only one group, be it staff or passengers, tolerance of your actions will be the reward. It's only when you behave thuggishly towards BOTH passengers and staff need you worry. One assumes 'violence towards either passengers or members of staff will not be tolerated' was the intended message, but who can tell?

Help us to stop it. Report it. call British Transport police on....

Surely even the doziest of proofreaders, somnolent at their desk on a Friday afternoon after a long liquid lunch knows that a capital letter is needed to start a new sentence?

Oh how Howard MacMahon esquire, would have shuddered if this advert had left his office. The Gnome can see the old man twirling in his grave now. Perhaps by highlighting this abhorrence to the wider world he will forgive the Gnome the use of the word 'penchant' earlier in the piece. As H.W. Folwer clearly states, and Howard MacMahon esquire would no doubt agree,

"To say penchant for liking or fancy is pretension and nothing else."

Monday, September 10

An Office Moment

As part of the Gnome's freelance occupation (i.e. any job will do), he was recently the hired help arranging a meeting for a large public sector organisation. He took it, in part, for the opportunity to meet fellow non-humans - it was for the elf service - but disappointingly none turned up (although given the appearance of certain delegates he cannot be 100% certain no trolls or orcs circumvented the invitation process...)

All was redeemed though by a moment of lunacy that would not have been out of place in a script from 'The Office'.

One of the Gnome's temporary work colleagues was looking over the laminated delegate name badges so beloved of meeting organisers when he stopped and picked one up, examining it in what can only be oxymoronically described as insipid excitement.

He nodded sagely and said 'If this person doesn't turn up I will take this badge back for my colleague..."

The Gnome looked over his shoulder and replied, "Is he called Brian Jameson then?", under the natural assumption he would be similarly named to the missing delegate.

"No... he just likes badges."

Oh, how the working hours must just fly past in such a thrill seeking workplace as that.

"Alone at last Miss Søderstrøm"

The Gnome was telling someone about his favourite cartoon the other day. It was by Ed McLachlan, a regular contributor to the now defunct Punch magazine, although you can still see his work (and the Gnome recommends you do) in various publications to this day.

So enthusiastic was the Gnome about this cartoon, a framed print was presented to him on his birthday by his work colleagues. Now the thing is, the joke in itself isn’t that funny, but it took the Gnome so damned long to work it out, it has stuck with him ever since.

The set up is simple. In a small rowing boat close to shore, a Swedish man is approaching a Swedish woman, lips puckered with amorous intent. Now the Gnome immediately hears you ask how their nationality can be ascertained so exactly. Is there some graphical technique immediately bringing into mind Swedish folk? Is the boat a Volvo? Does it have several unused screws and a small ‘L’-shaped piece of metal with holes in it left over in the gunwales suggesting it was self assembled from an IKEA kit? No. The alleged Swedishness of the occupants was neatly handled with a little linguistic stereotyping in the caption

“Alone at last Miss Søderstrøm…”

So what’s funny? Exactly what the Gnome thought. He looked at the boat again, checked the fine detail of the occupants and all he could see was a lecherous Swede about to have his wicked way.

It was only after about 5 minutes his eyes moved to the shoreline where, high up on the cliff, hundreds of lemmings were about to interrupt this passionate scene with their suicide leap.

Childish perhaps, but it tickled the Gnome mightily, particularly after missing the joke for so long. Anyway, the reason for this rambling introduction is to ask a question… What is the collective noun for lemmings? When explaining the cartoon to his colleague the Gnome realised he had no idea and had to fall back on the use of ‘a herd of lemmings’ to explain what was hurtling towards the edge of the cliff.

A quick search on the internet shows even the Oxford English Dictionary has no answer, although one should expect to hear the Gnome use the phrase ‘a bellowing of bullfinches’ or ‘a psittacosis of parrots’ at the earliest opportunity…

Another overheard conversation

They keep coming! And the Gnome loves them... Overheard in a gym, this one was worthy of an Alan Bennett script.

Two lancastrian ladies of a certain age, immaculately attired in flourescent leotards so reminiscent of the 1980s were rocking up and down on one of those abdominal exercisers when the following pearl of wisdom was produced.

"I haven't managed to drink a cup of tea for ages. I think it is something to do with the menopause..."


Sunday, September 9


A long time ago, deep in the Gnome's childhood, he would often hear the word 'wireless' used when what the adults should have said was 'radio'. This always amused the Gnome, listening to those old people (some of them were as old as 35 or even [God forbid] 40...) use such an outdated word.

It was as though they couldn't or wouldn't admit technology had moved forward, and with it the associated terminology.

Now he is of the same age as they were all those years ago, he records TV programmes via his Sky Plus / TiVo hard drive thinking to himself 'Hmmm... Must remember to video that...'

Plus ça change...

Thursday, September 6

Not Lost Any More

Amazing what you can find when Yahoo Pictures insists you move your collection to Flickr.

Here is the 'please do not shove a golf club up your dog's arse' sign the Gnome told you about many months ago.


The Gnome's Sporting Triumph

The smell of leather, the sound of balls being hit, and a ripple of applause from an intently watching crowd. What else could those sensations signify except that most English of summer pastimes?

Mrs Gnome, looking over one's shoulder has suggested a somewhat disturbing answer, but she is incorrect. The Gnome was referring not to sadomasochistic bondage parties but cricket. Honestly... One does occasionally wonder about her youthful past as Miss Pixie when these sort of comments are voiced...

Anyway, cricket. That most glorious of games, where one can spend five days lazily watching the bees pollinate flowers, declare the game a draw and claim you have participated in enough exercise to keep the government's health watchdogs at bay. In fact, fielding on the fine leg boundry is one of the few places left where a gentleman may enjoy a cigar without interference from the constabulary.

For some reason, the Gnome was recently thinking of one of his most memorable cricketing experience - the day he scored a century at Lords. Yes, it's true. A century. At Lords. 100 runs (actually 112 all told before a slightly dodgy lbw decision [is there any other kind?] cut short his innings).

Each one a treasured memory. The ball fizzing through the covers from a Ted Dexter-like drive, a seemingly lazy Gower-esque flick of the wrists to send the ball to deep square leg, a vicious hook à la Botham clearing the midwicket boundry. Ah... a wonderful day.

Of course, when the Gnome says this all happened at Lords he might have been a little disingenuous. It was Lords, yes. Arthur Lords. They were the car showroom sponsoring the ground.

Hey come on... it was still a century, and a Gnome can dream can't he?

Monday, September 3

Locked out of his own Blog!

Hello dear readers...

Once again, the months have flown past without so much as a jot from the Gnome. He can only imagine the gnashing of teeth, soulful wailing and desperation in your lives that his absence has caused.

He is not however entirely to blame for the abandonment. For some reason Blogger insisted on a change to a Google Mail account and with it all access was denied. Even the Gnome's precious map of his readers was reset to a blank page (come back you blogger in Montivideo - the Gnome needs to know you still care!)

Passwords have always been a simple matter to the Gnome. He has two. He has only ever had two. Those two passwords, if ever revealed to the world, would allow his entire life to be hijacked and used for nefarious purposes. Not a secure way of doing things admittedly, but a simple one. But no matter how many times times those two words were typed into the appropriate boxes, the dreaded 'password incorrect' box appeared. Something was wrong and in disgust the Gnome gave up and left the World bereft of his cogitations.

On calmer reflection though, it has become clear this is unsatisfactory. How would Santiago feel with no news of Gnome Dog (she's fine...)? Would Tasmania cope not knowing what the Mrs Gnome was up to (the Gnome has not let her order a martini since 'that incident', but otherwise okay)? Could the recent Manchester earthquake be partly attributed to a million Mancunians stamping their feet in unison demanding the return of the Gnome?

So, with a flurry of technological achievements, the Gnome retrieved his password and is back. The trouble is, it was insisted upon that the password be changed before letting him back, which means there is now a third password to remember in the Gnome household. This could be beyond even the Gnome's great powers of memory.

If he disappears again, then you will know why!