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Language Is Just Plain Weird

, , , , , , | Working | April 24, 2022

In the Glasgow city centre, there are a variety of nightclubs that are typically licensed to operate and, of course, to serve alcohol until 3:00 am. To cater to the drunk and hungry crowds which fill the streets after the clubs close, a number of fast food restaurants operate in the nearby vicinity. Some years back, in my clubbing days, a friend and I were very excited to try a new American sandwich chain that had opened near our favourite club.

We both ordered and stood at the counter to watch our sandwiches get made and overheard a conversation between the two staff on duty — one of whom had an Australian or New Zealand accent — that concerned us a bit.

Worker #1: “I know the restaurant is new, but I can’t believe how short-staffed we are! There were some jobbies in the kitchen when I started earlier.”

In the Scottish vernacular, “jobbie” is slang for poop.

Friend: “Um, pardon?”

Worker #1: “What was that, mate?”

Me: “Oh, yeah, what was that you were saying about there being crap in the kitchen?”

Worker #2: “Yeah… What are you talking about?!”

Worker #1: “What are you guys talking about?! I never said there was crap in the kitchen!”

Everyone Else: “You said there were jobbies in the kitchen!”

Worker #1: “Uh-huh, so what?”

Friend: “What do you think that word means? Because here, it means ‘crap’.”

Worker #1: *Laughing* “Oh, man, I didn’t know that! Where I’m from, it’s just a word we use to describe ‘temp workers’.”

At that point, we all pretty much fell about laughing (especially my friend and me) and advised [Worker #1] that they might want to be careful about how they use that word in Scotland going forward.

Apologies to the Antipodeans among us; this story goes back about fifteen years and I was drunk, so I can’t remember if the worker was from Australia or New Zealand, but I’d be very grateful if you could confirm this translation for me!

We Grant You A Retroactive Honorary “A”

, , , , , , | Learning | March 24, 2022

As a student, I mostly kept to myself; I wasn’t one of those who go out of their way to befriend the lecturers and tutors, but I typically did very well for myself. However, there is one major assignment that sticks out in my memory.

At the start of our year, we were told that the structure of the course had been changed. Previously, it had been composed of three assignments and an end-of-term exam; it now consisted of one case study and the exam with a 50/50 weighting toward your total mark.

Young me decided that this meant that they wanted you to use the case study as a “springboard” to discuss the subject more widely with only loose reference to the example. In retrospect, I wish that I’d discussed this with my tutor because it turned out that, no, they actually did want a detailed discussion of that specific topic. However, I know that at least some of the faculty agreed with my interpretation because of how the marks were handed out.

I was unlucky enough to have been selected for double marking: my paper was graded and then re-graded by a second member of the team. I know this because when I was given the form with my grade breakdown and comments, I could see that the original marks written in pencil had been rubbed out but were still clearly visible, and the original comments were still there in pen. I had been given an original mark in the high eighties (an A by UK university standards) and the new mark was exactly 50%, the lowest possible pass.

As you can imagine, I was a bit upset, and I went to speak to the head of the course.

Me: “Hi, I’d like to appeal my mark.”

Course Lead: “So would everyone else who did poorly. I am afraid that the marks stand.”

Me: “Yes, but I think something very odd has gone on with my grading, and clearly, there’s been some difference of opinion between the markers because I’ve gone from an A to the minimum pass!”

The course lead glanced at my paper.

Course Lead: “Ah, yes, I remember this one. You were too generic and didn’t discuss the case study in enough detail. The mark stands.”

Me: “Hold on. I accept that I purposefully only referred loosely to the case study, and if that was my mistake, then fine, but some of the breakdown doesn’t make sense against the marks. Look at this one on my research and bibliography; the comment says, ‘The breadth and scope of your research are impressive and have been well utilised throughout your paper, well done!’ My original mark on this criteria was nine out of ten, but it’s been changed to two out of ten with no justification or comment! How does a grade of two out of ten make sense when I’ve literally been congratulated on how well researched the paper is? Someone has just slashed every mark I got in every category without explanation.”

Course Lead: “Hmmm… Well, okay. You can have your original mark in that one section back but nothing else.”

Me: “Well, given that you’ve reduced my overall grade by over 30% and multiple levels, that still seems unfair. Could I get a third person to look at it?”

Course Lead: “No! Don’t be ridiculous. We don’t have the time or resources for that.”

Me: “Well, okay. If you had taken 1% more off, I’d have failed and would have had the opportunity to resubmit, wouldn’t I?”

Course Lead: “Well, yes.”

Me: “Okay, then. Can you please do that so I can rewrite it, then?”

Course Lead: “No! You can’t appeal to fail!”

Me: “Even your own team had a big difference of opinion on how to approach this. Even if I had spoken to someone, there’s no guarantee I’d have gotten the right information. But fair enough. I didn’t and misunderstood the requirements. It just seems that, under the circumstances, the fair thing to do, given how much I’ve been marked down, would be to give me a chance to do it over.”

Course Lead: “No, that is ridiculous and I won’t discuss this further. You can have an uplift of 7% for your research, but that’s it.”

After that, they gathered up their papers, turned around, and walked off before I could say anything else. Fortunately, I passed the exam well enough to bring up my aggregate grade a bit, but this class still gave me the lowest mark for the year. As I passed overall and was a bit scared of reprisals, I never appealed this any higher, but I think I was fairly scathing in my course review.

A For Alphabet

, , , , , | Right | March 7, 2022

Many years ago, I worked in a call centre that took queries from current and former UK Service People and their families. Although most of our work was done over the phone or electronically, we would still need to send and receive mailings every now and then. As we represented the Armed Forces, we were also expected to know the formal phonetic alphabet and use it. This usually wasn’t a problem.

Me: “Thanks for all the information so far. I need you to send your evidence to [address]. Our postcode is A for ‘Alpha,’ one—”

Caller: “I’m sorry, that’s spelled A, L, P, H, A, isn’t it?”

Me: “I’m sorry for the confusion. I’m using the phonetic alphabet; you don’t need to write the word, just its first letter.”

Caller: “That’s far too confusing. Just use the letters.”

Me: “Okay, so that was A…”

Caller: “Can you spell that?”

Me: “Umm, no, not really.”

That Escalated Awkwardly

, , , , , , , | Romantic | March 7, 2022

This story goes back many years before I met my wife and I was still in the dating game, and it summarises what was probably the worst date of my life. I think the young lady probably didn’t do too well out of it, either, but I’m sure she at least got a story to tell.

I met a girl online. We seemed to share a lot of interests and chatted for a few hours on an almost daily basis for a few weeks, so I asked her out, but on the day of our date, it was almost like she had been possessed. I don’t know if it was nerves, anxiety, or disappointment even, but she hardly said a thing. The only way I could get any words out of her was by asking direct and open questions. 

Evidently, this annoyed her; at one point, she asked me why I was asking her so many questions. Now that I’m older and wiser, I would probably have made my excuses and left, but in my youthful days, I felt that I had to stick it out to the bitter end, which leads us to the part of the evening where a discovery gave her a bit of a fright.

We had gone to a pub that played the type of music she was into and, having given up on meaningful conversation, I asked her if she wanted to shoot some pool on one of their tables. The table was coin-operated and released the balls after a coin was inserted into a drawer which was then pushed into the table. At one point, I tried to insert a coin into the drawer, but it must have been at an angle because it popped out and fell down the side of the mechanism.

I got down on one knee to fish around for the coin, and as I was rooting around, I found a ring that someone must have left there! I looked at it in puzzlement and, without thinking about the optics, I swiveled around on my knee to face her and I lifted the ring up to show her. Yes, that’s right. On an absolute disaster of a first date, I just got down on one knee and presented her with a ring.

As you might expect, there was a look of absolute panic on her face. After a moment she stammered out, “Um, that looks nice.” Her reaction puzzled me for a moment because I was expecting something more in the vein of, “Huh, that’s weird. Where did you find that?”

Then, the reality of what I had just done sank in. I blurted out a very quick explanation to her about having just found it and that I was just showing it to her. I think she believed me, but I’m not sure because my going over to hand it to the barman was pretty much the end of that date.

It might be one of the very few instances of someone ending an absolutely terrible date by accidentally proposing, though!

Customer Service To A Tea

, , , , , , | Right | March 6, 2022

My wife is almost completely tee-total except for the odd sip from time to time but she drinks tea constantly — both the proper stuff and herbal. When she was pregnant, she more or less gave it up because she was concerned about the caffeine content, but I knew that she was missing it.

One day after work, I went to a specialist shop a few streets away from my office and had a chat with one of their staff about my situation. She was absolutely wonderful and spent time helping me with a selection of teas that were naturally caffeine-free, worked with my wife’s preferences, and were otherwise safe to consume whilst pregnant.

After one of her colleagues rang me up, I asked to speak with the manager.

Manager: *Polite but a little apprehensive* “Hello, I understand that you wanted to speak to me. How can I help?”

Me: “I just wanted to give you a bit of feedback. Your member of staff has been absolutely wonderful today and has really gone out of her way to help me find teas that my pregnant wife can enjoy. I really just wanted to thank you also and let you know that I had a great experience today so that you can mark it in her next performance review or whatever.”

Manager: “Oh! That’s wonderful. I’m really happy to hear that and thank you for taking the time to speak to me. Congratulations, too! Here, let me give you something.”

The manager then spent the next few minutes filling up my carrier bag with free samples before thanking me again and telling me to have a good day. What a great experience! The place wasn’t the cheapest but it definitely became my favourite spot for unusual teas after this.