Shropshire Star

Peter Rhodes on commas, computers and a campaign to protect old jokes

A stern email arrives, apparently from my bank, warning of online fraud. But what's this? Tucked away in one paragraph is the phrase “So if your paying friends. . .” Clearly, this should read “you're.”

What's worn beneath?

Is the missing apostrophe a clue that this is a bogus email cobbled together by some foreign cyber-crooks? Or does no-one at the bank understand correct English? Either way it's worrying, innit?

Another mail-shot, this time inviting me on a “digital communication journey” with the health service. A padlock logo and the word “secure” promise that my records will be safe. Really?

This month has seen a haemorrhage of “secure” information from police IT systems in Northern Ireland, the Met, Suffolk and Norfolk. If the all-conquering computer can't keep their secrets safe, why should I trust it with the 1988 file on my hernia?

As a founder member (this morning, since you ask) of the Campaign for the Preservation of Old Jokes, I must protest at a line in one of the weekend newspapers. On the subject of the Loch Ness Monster search, it refers to Scottish men “whom you should never ask what is under their kilt.” Wrong. The essential missing word in this ancient Caledonian joke is “worn.”

Here, for the benefit of anyone aged under 95, is the original gag restored to its former glory: “Is anything worn under the kilt?” “No, it's all in perfect working order.” Old jokes – use 'em or lose 'em.

Incidentally, there is probably no Loch Ness monster because the sterile waters of the loch don't support enough food to keep a monster alive. Some years ago I sailed a cruiser the length of the loch. Even on a sunny day you never forget that beneath your hull is 800 feet of chilly, impenetrable black water. With or without a monster, it's a scary old place.

According to industry research, many customers are breaking the old rule and and drinking their red wine chilled rather than at room temperature. Why worry? If last winter is any guide, in a few weeks from now “room temperature” will be the same as “chilled” and the most popular red wine will be the mulled sort.