Twitter Talk

In my comedy Terms and Conditions Apply, an actor had to say the following lines as fast as he could:

“This Party is registered with House of Commons Political Services. Membership subject to status. Services may be provided in conjunction with another Party. The Party reserves the right to amend or withdraw policies without prior notice. Minimum spend: your entire household income. Offers subject to availability and end when the Party chooses. Typical APR ten thousand per cent. Exclusions apply. Selected other Parties may contact you with offers, which you should ignore. Participating politicians only. Go online for details. Terms and conditions apply.”

The idea was to satirise radio advertisements by bringing their language into normal conversation. The audience certainly got it!

Daft though such speed-talk is, at least the words are plain English. Less so I fear with other media. Okay, the abbreviations and acronyms used in texting or on Facebook  – ur, lol, wd, cd and so on – though often irritating, have been normalised across generations, and are at least underpinned by recognisable English. (Btw, I use btw from time to time). And thirty years ago when seemingly complicated website and email addresses started appearing on letterheads and advertisements, they soon proved to be simply a point of contact, like a postal address – once you’d accessed the address you could communicate in ordinary English.

Not so Twitter. This instant-messaging medium has a bright blue language of its own and limits messages to 140 characters. Addresses are prefixed with @, and have to come out of this allocation. Some messages use so many @addresses that there are few of the 140 left for proper words. I just drew the following tweet off my Twitter feed:

LIVE SCORES: @WorcsWarriors lead 7-3 at @CornishPirates1; 0-0 between @khfcofficial & @BarnetFC and @bradfordparkave and @WorcesterCityFc

Not good communication and not easy reading. And clicking on any of the @addresses leads to an equally impenetrable barrage of @information and few meaningful words.

Then there’s the hashtag. This allows you to follow a topic of specific interest or current fashion. The subject is prefixed with # to draw attention. Shops now prefer a #BetterBuy banner in their window to a ‘50% Off’ poster, and TV channels invite you to click on #LostDog to find out more about, well, you guess …

Here’s another actual tweet from my account:

Brilliant poem: #Sum Poet @GregMLeadbetter http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05q5y3q … #SomethingUnderstood #Poetry & #Linguistics @writingwestmids @BBCRadio4

The @s and the #s take up over half the spaces, and, though photos speak many words, the added BBC link eats up most of the rest. Hard going.

Okay, @PaulCostello8 is a dinosaur when it comes to social media #FairCop. So I’ve tried to come @ it another way. If communication in plain English is seriously hampered by a limit of 140 bright blue characters then I thought we could at least extend its useage to other @times and @places, say during a ch@ or when b@ting ideas about. We could call it Twitter Talk. #BetterValue #ImproveCommunications #NewLanguage #WorthTrying

I put my idea to the test in Hereford last week. I’d cooked up a bulk hash of chopped cold meat and vegetables, reheated in a spicy sauce, and wanted some tags to label the freezer bags with. So I caught the @DRM476 bus into town and visited @Wilkinsons for some hash tags #HashTags.

I couldn’t see any on the shelves #NoHashTags, and when I checked with the Customer Assistant she said,

‘Sorry luv, we’re out of hash tags.’

‘What, none at all, HashtagNoHashTags?’ I said.

‘Ever so sorry,’ she said. ‘They’re trending at the moment.’

‘What does “trending” mean?’ I asked.

‘Well,’ she said, ‘once we started hashtagging hash tags it caught people’s @tention and now everybody wants them.’

‘So @everyone thinks hash tags are fashionable?’ I said.

‘Yes,’ she replied. ‘A trend. Hash tags are trending HashtagHashTagsTrending.’

As you can imagine, I was delighted at her quick grasp of Twitter Talk!

‘When are you getting some more?’ I said. ‘I need to tag my hash.’

‘Ah, there’s a problem. Our stock buyer has made a hash of ordering hash tags HashtagHashUpHashTags. He didn’t tell @HashTagProducts who supply our hash tags that they were trending as a result of our HashtagHashTags, so they too are out of stock. It’ll be at least three weeks.’

‘Not very clever of the buyer,’ I suggested.

‘Yeah – his problem is he’s too fond of the old, you know …’ she said, making a smoking gesture with her hand.

‘Hash?’

Pitching herself wholeheartedly into Twitter Talk, the Customer Assistant said,

‘Yes, he hashes things up at the best of times, but this time the hash has clearly hashed up his hash tag handling HashtagHashHashingUpHashTagHandling, and @HashTagProducts aren’t happy about it.’

As we were ch@ting, I was becoming increasingly agitated by two children running up and down the aisles punching each other. Pre-empting me, the Customer Assistant said,

‘It’s okay. They’re only playing tag HashtagTag. Not harming anyone.’

‘But where are the parents?’ I said.

‘They’ll not be far away. Probably got ’em electronically tagged to keep a track on them HashtagTaggingTaggers!’ she said, laughing.

‘No doubt tagging taggers is trending too,’ I ventured.

‘Definitely! HashtagTaggingTaggers@HashTagShelves. Anyway, good luck with the hash tags. Try @Boots or @WHSmith in @HighStreet.’

I came away really excited about our conversation! In the same way as I’d successfully brought the speed-talk of radio-ad language into Terms and Conditions Apply @MarketTheatre @Ledbury @LastSummer #HilariousComedy #GreatAudience #MyFirstPlay, in one simple exchange I’d shown that moving away from on-screen Twitter can add value. #TwitterTalk #NoLimitOnCharacters #UseInEverydayConversation

Watch this space! I’ve got a sneaky feeling that before long Twitter Talk will be trending!

 

Copyright © Paul Costello April 2015

click. com – a play by Paul Costello. A comic romp through the joys and pitfalls of internet dating for ‘mature’ people. Showing at Bosbury Parish Hall Friday 24th/Saturday 25th July 2015.

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In My Kitchen

Last month three of Britain’s leading lights invited me into their family homes. In three fly-on-the-wall moments of political genius, Camshaft, Moribund and Clogg each revealed their kitchen’s innermost secrets – how the kitchen was the hub of family life and how they shared the routines of a workaday household. Chopping onions, stirring cake mixture and laying the table were all on show, as were recipes offering the nutrition that helps senior politicians tirelessly conduct themselves with vigour and grace.

I felt it only right to reciprocate their hospitality by inviting the three of them round to my house. I say ‘the three of them’ because once other party leaders got wind of my intention they all wanted to come. At one point seven of them were demanding a piece of the action, which I thought was a bit of a cheek since only three had been considerate enough to show me their kitchens.

(L to R) Camshaft, Moribund and Clogg at ease in my Herefordshire  home

(L to R) Camshaft, Moribund and Clogg at ease in my Herefordshire home

At the appointed time Camshaft and Moribund were delivered by smart limousines, though we had to wait a while for Clogg who’d come by public transport and the connecting double-decker from Gloucester to Ledbury had conked out in the middle of nowhere. Once we were all assembled in my kitchen and Clogg had called his mum to say he’d arrived safely, we got down to business.

I think they were instantly impressed! I’d worried that their kitchens would be a tough act to follow, but I could sense a heap of kitchen envy coming my way. And they seemed pleased to be free of the Westminster maelstrom and to bask instead in the haven of my provincial Herefordshire home.

Camshaft was interested in my two sieves – a coarse, plastic one for vegetables and pasta, and a finer one for rice.

My Twin Sieves

My Twin Sieves

‘Moribund’s economic policies would wash away through either of these,’ he said, with a tight-lipped grin.

‘But joking apart, this system is ideal for the smaller home,’ he added. ‘And if the Cons form a new government it will be our aim for every three-bedroom household in England to have twin sieves.’

 

One of my Kitchen Cupboard Doors

One of my Kitchen Cupboard Doors

I noticed Clogg admiring my kitchen cupboard doors. Personally I find them rather dull, but it was flattering to have them thought of so highly by such a senior figure.

‘Our raising of the Income Tax threshold during the past five years has enabled thousands of ordinary households to install kitchen cupboard doors like these,’ he said.

‘If the Never Nevers form a new government we shall raise it even further, allowing millions to upgrade their flip-top bins and oven extractor fans.’

 

Quietly unnoticed during this door-admiring exchange, Moribund had been closely inspecting my Morphy Richards microwave.

‘That’s strange,’ he said, ‘this microwave is timed in minutes only. There’s no “hours” symbol.

My Microwave Control Panel

My Microwave Control Panel

‘That’s quite normal, isn’t it?’ I suggested.

‘It’s a disgrace!’ he said, with as much bluster as he could summon. ‘If Laborious forms a new government, I shall put an end to the outrageous epidemic of zero-hours microwaves.’

We all sniggered a bit – but, fair enough, I guess he had a point.

 

 

 

To get a better understanding of where they really lay on the all-important matter of cooking and kitchenalia, I set them a challenge. I laid out a number of ingredients from which they each had half an hour to make Welsh rarebit. I would stand by and offer encouragement, and it would be called Master Chief.

Camshaft fussed away, admitting that he’d always steered well clear of Wales and this task was therefore a bit close for comfort. He also pointed out that with the extra million jobs he’d created in the economy there were now a million more people able to enjoy Welsh rarebit as a teatime treat.

Meanwhile Moribund was stirring a suspicious-looking mix like nobody’s business, smacking at the unyielding cheesy lump whilst muttering about the right ingredients for a just and fair society.

Sadly, Clogg disqualified himself, breaking competition rules by phoning his mum to ask whether the Marmite should go underneath or on top of the cheese.

Having hosted them in my kitchen, I felt none the wiser about political affiliation than I had when they entertained me in theirs. My test hadn’t really helped, nor did the subsequent debate on television, where Clogg, Camshaft and Moribund were joined by the four other leaders who’d tried gate-crashing my kitchen event:

  • Nigella Gar-arge             You Fancy a Kip Party
  • Theresa Green              Clean Party
  • Nickaless Urge-On        Scottish Gnats
  • Leanne Would               Plied Comely

TV DebateGrandiose claims on the economy, immigration and the National Health Service were bandied about by seven people during two hours of heated debate, but none had the guts to reaffirm their position on recipes, ladles, kettle wattages or, frankly, kitchen matters of any kind – rather disappointing, I thought, after the early promise of three culinary campaigns.

Only weeks till the big day. Cometh the election, cometh the Leader. If they’re to get my vote they’d be well advised to slot in a few more demos at their marble worktops. I tell you, the first person I spot sporting an anti-slip, toughened-tip, ultra-grip, own brand Wilkinson spatula with matching omelette whisk will shout out at me: “WINNER!”

Paul Costello Copyright © April 2015

click. com – a play by Paul Costello. A comic romp through the joys and pitfalls of internet dating for ‘mature’ people. Showing at Bosbury Parish Hall Friday 24th/Saturday 25th July 2015.