Saturday, 6 December 2008

Twas the season for bad public relations

“Be deaf! The herald angels do not sing;
Wrong ring the bells: ding ding not dong.
To wish you ill in non-rhyme on this non-Christmas card
Is not easy; it is difficult.”

These lines were penned by Paul Francis Jennings (1918–1989), a British humorist whose weekly columns (originally published in the Observer) were reprinted in books with titles like “Oddly Enough” and “Even Oddlier”. I enjoyed his writings during my schooldays, and his tongue-in-cheek suggestion about sending “non-Christmas cards” really captured my imagination. I even toyed with the idea of sending some to my friends.

One of Paul Jennings’ later books was entitled “I Was Joking, Of Course” – an ironic reference, no doubt, to some documented occasions when certain readers had mistaken his satires for serious journalistic reports. But even he would probably have been astonished to learn, as I myself was several years later, that the non-Christmas card, far from being merely an imaginary animal, really did exist: The sister of a friend of mine once received a “non-Christmas card” from somebody who had stopped keeping Christmas because they had discovered what we used to call “The Plain Truth About Christmas”. Apparently there used to be pre-printed cards that new converts to our church could (if they so wished) send to their family and friends, thus making it easier for them to explain why they would no longer be sending Christmas cards. My friend described this as “not a very good public relations exercise” – but nevertheless, he eventually went on to become a church member himself.

I wonder if any of those cards are still around.


xHWA said...

'even oddlier' is exactly the kind of humorous bad English that I love. I should give this stuff a read through.

The Third Witness said...

Hi, xHWA! Thanks for dropping by. Yes, Jennings was a brilliant writer and a very astute observer (no pun intended!). He once wrote a piece about what happens when you are touch-typing but start out with your fingers on the wrong keys. Come to think of it, maybe there’s a good metaphor there for some of my real-life experiences...

xHWA said...

I can't help but laugh when I think about that! I love your suggestions.