Haitch I J K ElEmEnOwePea

Aside from the existential question of whether it can ever be right for the name of a letter to be spelled using the very letter the name is describing, which feels very much like it’s at risk of establishing some kind of pattern flaw in the fabric of the universe, is pronouncing the name of a letter really so difficult? Why has aitch become haitch?

Haitch appears to overcompensate for accusations that one may drop one’s aitches, by putting an extra one in, just in case. It’s a pre-emptive strike, so that cockneys, people from Yorkshire, and other heavy users of the dropped ‘h’ can drop it without fear of having an audible gap in the alphabet.

Thick idiots.


Dunking your own teabag


If I’m paying two quid, why do I have to dunk my own tea bag?

Take away tea used to be made for you. Now you are provided with a kit – some hot water already in the cup – no opportunity to put the milk in first – a tea bag on a string, some sugar, some plastic pots of UHT milk and a wooden stirrer to minimise the environmental impact rather less than the milk pots do.

There is a 20p step up from a small to a medium to a large tea, even though all it requires is a bit more water and an inexplicable question about whether you need a second tea bag. A second one! Then again tea is now sold in such huge and vulgar quantities that a single large tea is about the size of a pot of tea for 4 in Betty’s of Harrogate. At least in Betty’s you qualify for some ersatz Victorian subservience, in a tattoo-concealing pinafore, rather than being handed a handful of tea-making paraphernalia and told to get on with it yourself.

With take away tea, all the tea production effort is outsourced to the consumer, meaning that 20p or 40p extra for a bit more hot water and a slightly bigger cup is very largely pure profit. No doubt they’d tell me it’s all part of the ‘experience’.

Given that good tea is quite simple to make and standardise – broadly the right colour and it’ll be fine; too dark and it’s utterly undrinkable – I really shouldn’t have to stand there constructing my own drink. I would offer full customer loyalty to any provider who realised that having to dunk my own tea bag is not a thing.

Greene King’s Flame Grills


A flame grill isn’t an aspirational thing for a pub to be.
At some point in the last 12 months, the pub that longs for me to declare it my local, the Terence Trent, decided to redesignate itself as a “pub and flame grill”.

Aside from the fact that a pub of the size of The Lord Darcy ought to have a proper chef and a menu that changes when they run out of ingredients rather than when they run out of ready meals, I think they’re rather badly mistaken on the flame grill.

Surely flames is the last thing you want? Any barbecue aficionado knows that you only start cooking once there are no flames to burn everything. So maybe it’s not a barbecue-inspired grill: maybe it’s just a grill with a gas flame? Not really worth paying a signwriter to adjust the sign outside: “food grilled in a standard fashion”.

“We kept the same grill as before”

Alternatively, perhaps they are trying to evoke the spirit of Burger King and their flame-grilled whopper? Again, I’ve rarely seen any evidence of flames in Burger King. Part of me thinks that probably the “flame grilled” bit of Burger King is just a flavouring that they add: vaguely smoky but not having been cooked near an actual flame, health and safety legislation being what it is. And why would a pub want to draw attention to the similarity between their food and that of Burger King?

Given that most pubs are part of a wearisome chain, I can well imagine the pub and flame grill concept spreading far and wide, if it hasn’t already. I guess you have to have a USP, even if it’s a crap one. It’d be nice if the Terence Trent focused on keeping its clientele in the premises all the way until 11pm. And they could probably do that by becoming a “pub and deep fryer”.

Flat white. You’re making it up.

Coffee innovation. Not a thing.


So let’s get this right. You took an espresso. And you added a bit of milk, albeit a slightly different fraction than that used to make the froth on the cappuccino, but not so much of it that you you would call it a macchiato*?

And you’re distinguishing between different milk foam types? And you’ve invented the phrase “microfoam”?

Nope. You’re going to have to run that one by me again.

*also made up

What doesn’t kill you, oh just whatever.

What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. Nice one, Nietzsche, but it’s not really a thing.

Take sushi, for instance. Won’t kill you. Just makes you a bit fed up for having ordered a crap lunch. Crucially, doesn’t make you stronger.

What doesn’t kill you… has become the go-to lyric for bored songwriters in search of that killer philosophy-inspired hook. It pops up everywhere, sometimes twice on the same Now compilation. If songwriters have a lyric creation app, as inevitably they must, it wouldn’t surprise me to find these words as the lorem ipsum of singer-songwriting software, sitting there waiting to be the default lyric of no-choice for the next anodyne wannabe wheeled in for 15 minutes on X Factor. It is now a staple of pop, alongside fake co-writes, Autotune and a widespread, fervent belief that Mariah Carey-style melisma can enhance any performance – even if you don’t have any technical skill and therefore should really lay off the irritating warbling.

You might expect this to be a recent phenomenon, perhaps confined just to Kelly Clarkson, Ed Sheeran, Jay Z and Jake Bugg. But no, there are loads more of them, going back years: http://youtu.be/FujhZoAg2-I 

And I bet not one of them are paying the Nietzsche estate any royalties.

I have tried, and largely failed, to think of something that makes you stronger if it doesn’t kill you. It’s tempting to go down an immune system route, starting with viruses, but they can really leave you feeling washed out. Sometimes for days on end. So what else?

I can really only think of weightlifting.

Admittedly it’d be a crap song, but in honour of the philosopher and for the sake of pop, someone should write it and give it to Jake Bugg. In the meantime, being made stronger by things that don’t kill you is pretty much usually not a thing.

Contactless, and the death of nouns

Things described without the use of a noun. By definition, not a thing.
“Pay by contactless”, urges a sign at every Marks and Spencer checkout. Contactless what? Oh contactless card, you mean, well why didn’t you just say that? It’s almost as if M&S are going out of their way to enrage the local pedant population, first with their 5 items or less and now this. Not to mention their breathily excessive use of adjectives, of which more later.

Alas, they’re not the only ones discarding the essential building blocks of straightforward communication. A glorious former employer of mine recently recruited a Head Of Social and a Digital Director. Turns out that the missing nouns were ‘media’ and ‘marketing’ respectively. Nouns are so passé these days that the coolest, hippest proponents of communication have simply decided not to bother with them.

Poor nouns. Imagine being made redundant by a chance meeting between an adjective and a hip, outré, laziness. Things can’t be things without nouns, except, apparently, when they can.

Hallowe’en crackers. Reduced, presumably.


Unfestive crackers. That’s not a thing.

Well, I for one will be rushing down to Sainsbury’s to see if I can pick up a few packs of these traditional Hallowe’en crackers on the cheap.

Honestly though, what else can be misappropriated? When I’ve finished poking my undignified way through the reduced-to-clear Hallowe’en plasticware, I’ll be straight over to the bakery section to see if ‘Income tax return deadline’ figgy pudding is on a buy-one-get-one-free.

That’s after I’ve picked up my Bonfire Night turkey.