Email disclaimers

We’ve all seen these at the bottom of an email.  There are many variations on the theme, but generally they go something like this:

The information contained in this e-mail message is intended only for the personal and confidential use of the recipient(s) named above. This message is privileged and confidential. If the reader of this message is not the intended recipient or an agent responsible for delivering it to the intended recipient, you are hereby notified that you have received this document in error and that any review, dissemination, distribution, or copying of this message is strictly prohibited. If you have received this communication in error, please notify us immediately by e-mail, and delete the original message.

Now I find this amusing on several levels.  Let’s list them, shall we?

1. “if the reader is not the indended recipient” – wow, is that as silly as it seems?  When was the last time  you even heard of an email system delivering an email to somebody other than the address listed at the top?  Now this isn’t to say that people don’t sometimes send an email to the wrong person, but that only happens when the sender puts in the wrong email address.  As a recipient, all email to my email address comes to ME, and I have no way of knowing (except perhaps by context) if the sender actually intended to send it to somebody else.  So, there is simply no way for me (or anyone) to comply with directives like this.

2. Let’s say that your server has a massive problem and does in fact deliver emails to incorrect inboxes.  Sure, it’s far-fetched, but work with me on this.  A person receives a confidential email in error with all kinds of juicy information.  Are they really going to read the disclaimer and say to themselves “oh dear, I should delete this”.  Really?  What planet are these disclaimer writers on?  I’ll tell you what will happen: The person will read the email, and make maximum personal use of the information in it.  They might even share it with selected friends so they can benefit too.  Welcome to the real world.

Bottom line: This provides NO protection at all to emails which end up in dishonest hands.  So why bother?  Just because other companies do it doesn’t make it clever.  Let’s all try to stop being stupid together.

Spell Check – the buck doesn’t stop here

I saw this one today on a geeky website: (emphasis mine) “Calling this the database layer or the persistence layer loses site of the fact that the  model might be virtually any time of information in virtually any format.”

After re-reading this a few times, it becomes obvious that “site” should be “sight”, and “time” should be “type”.

So, the moral of the story is: Just because the spell checker doesn’t complain, doesn’t mean you are done proofreading.

Too Intense for me!

Have you seen this one: “For all intensive purposes”?  Oh, the pain!  It should be “For all intents and purposes”.

I can’t believe people do this stuff.  Doesn’t anyone ever say these things out loud and then think to themselves “well, that makes no sense, maybe I got it wrong”?  Apparently not.

How about “No holes barred”?  That one started as an amusing twist on “No holds barred”.  The original phrase was from wrestling and meant that any “hold” was fair game – none were prohibited, or “barred”.  The mangled phrase was coined by the porn industry.  So the moral of the story is: If you are using a catch phrase, know what it means and use it correctly!

Leet – not so kewel, more like inane.

When children are young, an important part of learning language is word-play.  My sister and I used to comically mis-spell words all the time (much to my Mother’s dismay when at the store reading the shopping list).  It’s something  you outgrow usually.  For some reason, it seems to take a very long time for people to be outgrowing hugely amusing and clever mis-spellings or spelling using numbers and punctuation as well as letters.  It’s just SO clever, that it must be hard to stop.  Ok, I’m being sarcastic here.  Seeing posts with idiocy like “kewl” (cool) and other 1337 (leet) flotsam in them is incredibly tiresome.

Signing email with “best” – Best what? Best Fruitcake? Count me out!

People are either becoming more and more lazy, or are losing the ability to type.  What’s with ending emails with “Best, Tim”.  Best what?  Best wishes would be the obvious choice, but are those 7 characters (oh no, 8 including the space) so hard to type?  If you are that lazy, just leave off the entire thing – don’t bother with “best” and don’t put your name (after all, the recipient can look at the “from” address, can’t they?).  In fact, if sending an email is that difficult or bothersome for you, just don’t bother to send it to me at all.

I have actually seen people put this in a signature block in Outlook.  Yes, that means Outlook will automatically type it for you.  How’s that for the ultimate in lazy?  It’s automatic, and still it’s too much trouble.  Feebs!

Oh yea, and for those of you who think it’s “hip” … it’s not.


Political Correctness

It’s time for a witch hunt.  That witch is Political Correctness!!  Witch you say?  Isn’t that a bit harsh?  After all, Political Correctness is funny and amusing, and doesn’t hurt anyone, right?

One of the things that we Americans love about our constitutional amendments is Free Speech.  One would think that this is pretty high on the priority list, as it is the First Amendment.  We all seem to think that this is a very important right, and I’m right there waving the flag on that one!  However, in recent years, it has become fashionable to be “Politically Correct”.  What this amounts to is a self-imposed limitation on free speech.  Burn the witch!

How could this be?  Are we really giving up some of what is universally recognized as a key American tenet?  What’s next?  Baseball? Apple Pie?  Horrors, Agnes!

Okay, I get why all this started.  We can choose our wording to be hurtful or not, and whenever possible we should strive not to be hurtful.  Racial slurs, gender bashing and so forth really should not have a place in modern America.

On the other hand, we are driving full steam ahead into some rather dangerous territory.  If you “call a spade a spade” these days, you will no doubt garner disapproving looks or comments at the very least.  This process seems to be accelerating, so the parameters of what is “correct” and “acceptable” are narrowing daily.  People trip and stumble all over themselves in an effort not to “cross that line”, and in the process actual problems are caused.  Here are a couple of examples that pop up in my mind:

Problem #1 – We are weakening our kids’ psyches.  Yes, little Johnny, when you are playing baseball, and your team does not win, you Lose.  That shouldn’t be damaging, but it is perceived that way in many circles.  You hear garbage like “everyone is a winner”, or “he’s not a Loser, he’s a uniquely fortuned individual on an alternative career path”.  Puhleease!  If you want a good laugh, check out some of these gems.  To me, this is like my diatribe on hand sanitizer.  Do we really want to raise a generation of weak-minded people who can’t deal with reality?  Let’s give them some matches instead and help them burn the witch.

Problem #2 – trying not to racially profile gets in the way.  Security folks have to try really hard not to racially profile, or anything along those lines.  This makes it very hard for them to do their jobs.  Let’s see, if an NTSB security officer is busy with a random strip-search of an 85 year old grandmother with a walker, they have to let the swarthy young man with the shifty expression behind her go by because it’s random, don’t you know.  This doesn’t make me feel very secure, if I’m a fellow passenger.  Can we please stop being so sensitive, and get the job done?  C’mon, NTSB, pull out that Tazer you love so much and Taze the witch.

Problem #3 – The workplace is becoming littered with land-mines.  I do see sexual harassment as an issue which should not be ignored.  However, in other areas we tend to be overly careful.  Let’s have a meeting and downsize the witch.

Problem #4 – The media has to be very careful when reporting a story.  Now, this one I don’t necessarily think is such a bad thing, given the media’s track record.  However, when stories have to be diluted and presented with mealy-mouthed verbiage just to not offend anyone, we’re going too far.  The top news story should start with “Ding Dong, the Witch is dead”.

When to use an apostrophe

Ok, so perhaps I’m a little overly sensitive on this one, but apostrophe mis-use really drives me bonkers!  (yes, yes, it’s a short drive, thank you).

I can’t believe that people just don’t get the very simple rules on when to use and when NOT to use an apostrophe.  It seems that the great unwashed seem to feel that it’s seasoning which can be tossed in whenever it looks neat, and that it’s how you make something plural.  (groan)

Here’s a really great page which spells it out in graphic detail:

However, in a nutshell: An apostrophe does not make something plural.  Writing “we have 4 unit’s in our apartment building” is just plain wrong.  Yet, you’ll see it all over the web, and all over storefront advertising.

An apostrophe basically has two uses; showing possession, or replacing missing letters in a contraction.

An example of possession would be: “I like Joe’s car” (which could be rewritten: I like the car belonging to Joe).  You can use this rewriting trick to see if an apostrophe is appropriate.  In our example about apartment units above, you can’t rewrite this way because since “unit” doesn’t possess anything, it wouldn’t make sense.  So, that’s how you know not to use an apostrophe in that case.

An example of a contraction would be “I don’t understand“.  “Don’t” is a contraction of “Do Not”.  The apostrophe takes the place of the missing “o”.  In our apartment example above, there are clearly no missing letters, so again, the apostrophe does not belong.  Poor apostrophe.  We can make it up to him by correctly using him in “it’s fun to get it right“.  You can rewrite that one with the missing letter put back in: “it is fun to get it right“.  That makes perfect sense, so it’s okay to use an apostrophe. (Ooo… was that one correct?  Try to rewrite it and see)

Could care less?

This one is mainly spoken, but still appalling.  The phrase should be “I couldn’t care less”.  This makes perfect sense as it states that it would not be possible for you to care less about something, and so it must be completely at the bottom of your mental totem-pole.

However, how many times have you heard “I could care less”.  People will even vehemently defend this as being correct!  What this means is that it IS possible for something to be less significant to you than whatever it is you are discussing.  So, this ascribes importance, where the whole point is to say that whatever it is has NO importance.

Sight vs site

It’s “web site”, not “web sight”.  This phrase was coined to say “this is the place where this web content exists”.  “sight” makes no sense at all.  I suspect this has become common because people hear somebody talk about a “web site” and never see it written down.  So, let’s blame the English language with it’s ridiculous propensity to have words that sound the same but mean different things.  Still, people who get this wrong should still be beaten mercilessly with a fungo bat.