Blog in 05 2013.
The British Conservative party has got itself in a right old state about the idea of legalising gay marriage. I won’t get into that here (though you can guess what a muesli-eating, Guardian-reading liberal like me might think). But it did give me the idea for a brilliant Breakfast Experiment™ (copyright the always great Language Log).
We’ve often noted in our workshops that the more uncomfortable someone is with a subject, the more likely they are to use formal language to talk or write about it. So your HR department won’t say in a disciplinary letter, ‘we might sack you’; they’ll say ‘you may be liable for dismissal’. It is – we hypothesise – a distancing tactic.
So I’ve been listening to different politicians discussing gay marriage. And my hunch is that if you’re pro, you’re much more likely to use the words ‘gay’ and ‘straight’. The antis seem more prone to using ‘homosexual’ and ‘heterosexual’. But hey, it’s a busy week, and I don’t have time to do lots of listening to collect the data. Anyone got a spare day?
If I’m right though, it’d be an interesting little ‘tell’. If you think a politician’s toeing the party line, but not telling the whole truth about their real opinion, have a listen for which words they pick.
In an attempt to declutter my inbox, I’ve been unsubscribing from various newsletters I’d signed up for over the years. You know the drill: you squint at the small print at the bottom of their last email until you find the ‘unsubscribe’ link, then go to their website where you’ll find some variation on this message:
‘If you no longer wish to subscribe to our newsletter, fill in your email address/click on the link below/fill in our short questionnaire’ blah blah blah.
Click, click, unsubscribe, get email confirmation, delete.
Until I got to Firebox.com, where the ‘unsubscribe’ link took me here:
And you know what? I had second thoughts. For the first time in about two years, I clicked through to the website. And I chuckled at their banter. And I marvelled at the remarkable bargains. (‘Maybe I really do need Random Crap Crates?’)
In the end, I resisted their charms and unsubscribed anyway. And then I got the email to confirm it. Where everyone else said something along the lines of You have been successfully unsubscribed from X, this email was different.
It’s a bittersweet moment for us and we’ll treasure the memories, but as requested, we’ve unsubscribed you from the Firebox newsletter.
If you have changed your mind (puppy dog eyes) or if this was all just a big misunderstanding, you can easily resubscribe here.
I clicked on the link. What can I say? I’m a sucker for puppy dog eyes.