So, there I was, sat on a grammar high horse. Or something.

The evolution of language.

The evolution of language.

My university linguistics professor was always very clear about the fact that language is a living thing. It changes, it evolves. And this is all fine  – good, even – as long as it is achieving its primary aim: facilitating communication. Yet for those of us sometimes labelled grammar Nazis, watching this evolution unfold can be a mite uncomfortable.  It raises questions. When is it appropriate to be a pedant, for example, and when should one acquiesce and go with the evolutionary flow?

Language has ebbed and flowed for years but it seems to me that the wave of change has swelled over recent years.  New words, new phrases and new sentence constructions; they’re everywhere. No doubt the array of new(ish) media has a lot to do with this as it amplifies the public voice in a way not seen before. Want to be a writer? Blog. Want to be a video star? YouTube it. And so a web of beautiful, embarrassing, challenging language is woven.  True, some of these new linguistic devices are fairly transient, dying out almost as soon as they arrive – possibly due to frenetic over-use – but others appear to be sticking. What, I wonder, will be the fate of these current language chart-toppers:

 

1. That thing. That.

That thing where one starts a sentence with ‘that thing’ or ‘that moment’ and drops an emphatic, capitalised ‘That’ after the full stop. That.

This is in fact the grammar-tic that inspired this post. Not because I am against it, simply because the modern literature that is my Facebook feed appeared today to be somewhat over ‘thated’. The pattern was noticeable, and disappointingly dull for it.  I sense the novelty factor required to keep this one alive is on the wane.

 

2. That is all.

But it’s not all bad for ‘that’. It’s renaissance means it has more than one chance to win at lingo bingo. Have something insignificant, obvious or otherwise trivial to say? (Or rather, to write – for this one really is about the written word.) Don’t hold back, we live in an age of sharing. Conclude your thought with ‘that is all’ and voila, your trivia become triumphant. Or something.

 

3. Or something.

How’s that for a seamless transition? Or something. This one is still on the up I feel – or maybe I’m just saying that to justify my use of it in an email earlier today. The linguistic evolution of ‘on the other hand’, this simple little construction can be used to introduce polite dissent. So you know that thing I just said? Well it could be utter genius, or it could be complete tosh.

 

4. Stating a sentence with the conjunction ‘so’

Good grief I did it again, almost without thinking. Almost. Please refer to the second last sentence above. So, what do you reckon? Staring a sentence with ‘so’: good thing? Bad thing? Whatever your view, you might be interested to know that it’s not in fact a new thing. Apparently it appears in writing as far back as Chaucer and Shakespeare. Didn’t stop a flurry of articles on the revived practice recently. The Guardian got deep with a discussion around the ‘packaging of self’ while others claimed that Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg and his Silicon Valley pals were behind the ‘so’ trend. (Not so, it turns out.) The BBC just got pouty and called for it to be banished in 2013. But according to an article on the Today programme’s Health section, it’s actually okay and can in fact help strengthen relationships. Phew.

 

5. Sat. In the present tense.

Using ‘sat’ in the present tense will, however, never be okay. Not to my mind, anyway. As much as I understand the need for evolution this is one, particularly British, habit that I refuse to give in to. One is not sat on a bus, one is seated on a bus. Or sitting on a bus. It pains me to see the more traditional custodians of language – authors, journalists, teachers – succumbing to this horrid, horrid custom. Stop it, please.

 

6. Declaring something ‘a thing’.

Hmm, how should I describe this? I know I’ll just refer to Urban Dictionary, that happy place where people like us get to write the dictionary. According to one entry, a thing is defined as:

 An action, fashion style, philosophy, musical genre, or other popularly recognised subsection of popular culture. Normally used in surprise at its existence. Becomes official when a wikipedia article is created for it.

If you want to know what the latest things are, you can even listen to podcasts on the It’s a thing blog. Butter in your coffee? It’s a thing, apparently.

 

So, what do you reckon, are these linguistic quirks here to stay?

Your voice, even when you’re out

Ooooooooh, look who's ooo.

Ooooooooh, look who’s ooo.

Ah, the Great British Summer. That blessed time of year when London commuters are able to traverse the capital without a sweaty armpit for a hat. When merry bands of campers perform the rain dance that is the pitching of tents, when low-cost airlines test low-fuse tempers, and when office workers smugly turn on their out-of-office messages.

I am treating my summer holiday a bit like a pick and mix and have been peppering my time with an assortment of long weekend getaways. This has given me the great nerdilicious joy of being able to compose multiple email out-of-office messages.

While I never leave out key information – like alternative contacts and details of when I will be back online – it is important to me that each composition reflects a bit of who I am. And guess what, people love it! Seriously, now when I come back from each trip I have emails waiting for me that aren’t just about stuff I need to catch up on, but about how my OOO (terrible acronym) made such-and-such smile, and how so-and-so looks forward to my holidays just to see what I’ll write in my OOO. Is it any wonder I now aim to elicit wild applause with every outing?

You may not be as blatant in your desire to stand out as I am, but this game does prove something: people really do respond to a bit of personality. It’s fun, it’s unexpected and it makes a nice change from corporate beige. Most importantly, in a competitive market it’s the smallest things can elevate you above the crowd.

Remember that quite often, especially in a professional context, the first time a person comes into contact with you is via email. The wording of your email address, your email footer, the way you manage the in- and out-flow of messages; these all work together with the actual content of what you write to help recipients form a picture of who you are. The OOO is just one more e-advert.

Do you remember the chap who said he’s going  going to be away from his desk from X date to X date or the guy who says he’s gone to Greece to study the varying shades of British Sunburn Pink? Obviously you need to be ensure that your personal tone does not completely clash with the corporate brand you may be representing, and there is a fine line between amusing and annoying, but people, I work in the HQ of a major bank; if I can inject a bit of chutzpah into my OOO, so can you.

Don’t just stop there either, you still have a voicemail greeting to record. It still baffles me when people don’t have a personally recorded greeting on their phones. It needn’t be long – in fact please don’t waffle on – but at least give me the confidence that I have in fact called the right number and will be leaving a message for the right person.

There are plenty of articles out there offering guidance on how to construct and record the perfect voicemail greeting – some even written by me – but really, the key trick is to smile. Actually physically make the corners of your mouth go up. Why? Because believe it or not, smiles are audible. Smile, speak slowly and clearly, be sure to include the basics like your name and – if relevant – the name of the company you are representing, and as my dad would say “Bob’s your carbuncle”, you’re done.

Now then, who wants to email me? I’m off to France soon and you know I’m scripting already!

Zeitgeist and the art of not looking down

Zeitgeist is such a delicious world. Not only does it launch off a wonderfully rare ‘z’, but it rolls over itself in a pleasing loop of a rhyme. Yes, I rather like the word zeitgeist.

However, I am not sure how I feel about what it represents. I am, you see, the kind of person who naturally retreats from the overtly popular. I am no trendsetter, mind, nor am I particularly off-centre in any notable way, but where some might say “everybody else is doing it so why can’t I?” I lean towards “everybody else is doing it so I’ll stubbornly do something entirely different, thank you very much”. This might explain why I have still not seen Basic Instinct or read a Stieg Larsson book and why I only succumbed to leggings about two years ago. Yet for the past year, I have been quite taken with the concepts of mindfulness and happiness. Just like everyone else. And over recent weeks I have added the subject of sleep to this repertoire. Again, just like everyone else.

Zzzzzzz….

Well, maybe not everyone else, but a lot of people. People like Arianna Huffington whose new book, Thrive, I am gobbling up on my daily commute. Her introduction alone is almost ode-like in its proselytisation of sleep, something I wrote about a few weeks go in an act of zeitgeisty zeal. Though I was already of the opinion that we all need more sleep, I was quite blown away by some of the statistics she references. Did you know, for example, that in the USA, the loss of productivity due to insomnia is estimated to cost business more than $63 billion per year?  And Cheri Mah, a researcher at the Stanford Sleep Disorders Clinic noted that athletes who slept longer and better, performed markedly better, even better than had they taken performance enhancing drugs.

Just as the overloaded email inbox has become a status symbol – “your get 100 emails a a day? That’s nothing, I get 500” – so has the ability to survive (and note I say survive, not thrive) on just a few hours sleep. It is becoming ever clearer that this is neither healthy or sustainable and quite frankly, it’s a hot topic right now. In May the BBC dedicated an entire day of programming to the Day of the Body Clock and just last week Sleepio, in conjunction with Oxford University, launched the 2014 Great British Sleep Survey.

Tune into your story

Sleep, of course, has a rather appropriate bedfellow in mindfulness; the art of being present. We know all too well that we ought to live every day as if it were our last, savouring each moment and prioritising activities and emotions that genuinely matter and make us feel good about who we are and what we contribute to the world, but how many of us actually do this? Sadly it often takes a tragedy for is to recalibrate and even then, our commitment seldom lasts.

I have been practising yoga in earnest since April last year but have never thought of myself as a ‘yoga bunny’. Yet I have found that the opportunity to extract myself from the business of busyness and just focus on my breathing, my body and my mind has been fantastically helpful. In fact, after the universe threw me a personal curveball around November last year I found myself experiencing actual cravings for yoga. It wasn’t about the physical exercise, it was about an intense need to calm my mind and recentre myself. At the risk of sounding like the kind of person who wears tie-dye, in addition to a crew of incredibly supportive and inspirational friends and family, I credit yoga and mindfulness with keeping me sane over the past nine months. I think Arianna explains it quite well when she says that we all have our own stories, and mindfulness is what helps us become aware of our own story.

Not-so-smart phones

My natural inclination to cling to the past like a leech in a talent show means that I am certainly no expert at mindfulness yet but I have absolutely seen the difference it has made in my life and so I am trying to get better at it. But there is a downside to my increasing awareness which is that it is making me hyperaware of how unaware other people can be.

Seriously, I would like to introduce a law that makes it illegal for people to walk and text at the same time! We already now that distracted driving, especially due to texting, is to blame for an alarming increase in road deaths, but did you know that while the total number of injured pedestrians being admitted to hospitals in the US has dropped, those hurt while using a mobile has doubled since 2005?! Over 1,500 people were admitted to A&E in 2010 with phone-related pedestrian injuries. I don’t know what the figures are for other parts of the world but I would be willing to bet they’re on a par – and even worse now that we’re in 2014.

#dontlookdown

It is likely that one or more of these injuries will in the future be caused by me stubbornly standing still while a pedestrian with no visible neck, or indeed face, careers headlong into me while absorbed in filling out that all-important Buzzfeed survey.

 

There is a time for tablets and smartphones and a time for walking, talking and experiencing. Let's not confuse them.

There is a time for tablets and smartphones and a time for walking, talking and experiencing. Let’s not confuse them.

To avoid such a clash, I would like to ask you all to be part of my #dontlookdown campaign (the only time I will excuse the omission of an apostrophe!). It’s very simple: stop burying your face in a device, and inspire others to follow suit, so that we don’t all become what journalist Wayne Curtis calls the ‘digital dead’ – “hyperconnected individuals who walk around the city disconnected from those around them, and themselves, transfixed by a small screen in their hands”. It may just secure our survival according to Laurence Gonzales, author of Deep Survival, who does and why, who explains: “Survivors are attuned to the wonder of the world. The appreciation of beauty, the feeling of awe, opens our senses.”

I could probably prattle on about sleep and mindfulness – and I haven’t even mentioned meditation yet – but to be honest, I’d quite like to take the time to enjoy the process of making dinner this evening. Just as I enjoyed the 15 minutes I spent before sitting down to type this, simply lying on my back in the garden, listening to the wind, looking up into the branches of a tree and remembering the feel of grass under my toes.

Try it some time, you’ll be amazed how good it feels to ground down and look up.

 

 

 

Backpacks for grown up ladies

It never ceases to amaze me that there are people who are sufficiently free of hand that, should they so choose, they could quite happily spring unburdened into a rendition of YMCA on their commute to work. Me, I seldom leave home without a pantechnicon over my shoulder, sometimes two.

Way back in 2011 I disgorged the contents of my handbag online when discussing this same topic. I confess that although I do now have a new carpet *shudder* I have clearly not learned the art of packing light. This would explain why I found myself at the mercy of a physio a few weeks ago having a rotated disk manipulated.

Sadly I fear that any exercise to reduce the contents of my bag in any meaningful way will prove unsuccessful, so instead I am on the hunt for a backpack. But not a grotty canvas one with velcro bits and coloured tags a là the ones you used as a 12 year old on school camps, but one that could feasibly pass as a sophisticated ladies handbag.

I should say at this point that I am not what you might call a bag lady. I’m sorry, but I just don’t get the almost religious passion some women feel towards handbags. Seriously, you could feed several families for a year on what some women will spend on a single statement bag. My current default bag set me back all of £14 from Accessorize and I get plenty of compliments about it thank you very much. That said, in the interests of durability I have, with one exception, gone for genuine leather options here which takes me above my usual £50 comfort zone. Oh, and they’re also a decent size to fit in all that important ‘stuff’.

If you’ve seen something better, please do add your contribution to the comments section.

One for the vegans, the Brave Simple backpack from eco-label Matt & Nat is also available from ASOS, £80.

One for the vegans, the Brave Simple backpack from eco-label Matt & Nat is available from ASOS, £80.

Why not support a small business and get your bag made to order from Etsy? This genuine leather bag is £110 and ships from Lithuania.

Why not support a small business and get your bag made to order from Etsy? This genuine leather bag is £110 and ships from Lithuania.

Pricier than I would usually recommend, but this season is all about yellow so if you're brave enough, this leather prion from Grafea is worth a look. £180

Pricier than I would usually recommend, but this season is all about yellow so if you’re brave enough, this leather option from Grafea is worth a look. £180

Ah, the good ol' satchel. This is the Cambridge Satchel Company's backpack version - available in 11" (£125) or 13" (£145).

Ah, the good ol’ satchel. This is the Cambridge Satchel Company’s backpack version – available in 11″ (£125) or 13″ (£145).

Simple and smart is this ASOS Leather Backpack In Boysy Shape, £55.

Simple and smart is this ASOS Leather Backpack in Boysy Shape, £55.

If I were to drop my rule about budget (which I won't) then I might be tempted to buy this Minty Marc Jacobs number (but I won't). £295.

If I were to drop my rule about budget (which I won’t) then I might be tempted to buy this Minty Marc Jacobs number (but I won’t). £295.

Jumpsuits for beginners

A root through my cupboards will reveal that apart from a couple of pairs of jeans and single obligatory pair of black trousers – last worn about two years ago – my wardrobe consists almost entirely of dresses and a scattering of skirts. Not only that, but many of these items make return appearances every year because as much as I revel in a good outfit, I favour style over fashion. And yet this season I feel almost compelled to acquire a jumpsuit. If you too are close to being one over (yes, yes, I did say that), here’s my advice on how to go about choosing one – and a few suggestions of options that have caught my eye.

A jumpsuit is not an investment

First of all, let’s be clear that jumpsuits are the epitome of a fashion trend – here today, gone tomorrow. While I am all for investing in good quality pieces generally, I personally do not see the point in spending a fortune on something that will likely look out of date after a season or two.  The high street is swimming in options at the moment and you can quite happily get a pretty piece for under £50.

I see a pattern

You will never, I repeat never, see me wearing any item of clothing that announces itself with a big fat logo. Allow me to indulge in a little bit of Calvin and Hobbes to elucidate:

calvin_hobbes

In a similar way, I have an innate fear of recognisable fabric designs. It’s not that I don’t like patterns it’s just that I baulk at the possibility that people will be able to tell where I bought my outfits from. A bold print is simply more likely to be recognised. Instead, I tend to go for block colours, interesting fabrics and common old garden stripes dressed up with quirky accessories and showstopper shoes. And when I do go for patterns, I opt for more niche brands where the volume of sales makes the likelihood of bumping into an outfit twin much less likely.

BUT. But. A mere glance at any fashion magazine will confirm that standout prints are big this season and as a result, some of the most appealing jumpsuits out there don’t so much whisper as scream. So you have two options:

  1. Play it safe and go with a single colour option which you can dress up with accessories.
  2. Put on a print, but  – at the risk of sounding like a complete snob – stick to brands you don’t mind being recognised in. And again, always think about how you can accessorise it to make it look unique.

Pick your fabric

This is a general rule really, but especially important if you’re thinking of shimmying into a jumpsuit. What you don’t want is a trouser that holds your leg in a static clinch, nor do you want anything stiff or brittle that either shows up every bump or creases when you so much as look at it. I’m a sucker for a good jersey fabric or anything with a bit of stretch to it. And whatever you do, do not fall victim to polyester. Ever.

Shape up

If, like most women, your top and bottom halves take a different size, you may find jumpsuits a challenge. A flexible fabric will help, but think about the way you usually wear trousers and tops and take inspiration from the shape combinations you use here to pick a jumpsuit for you. If you’re on the short side, look for petite options and err on the side of a skinnier trouser leg. Women with curvier bottom halves would also do well to stay away from wide-legged options, especially if going with a bold print. And unless you’re  tall and skinny, look for suits that provide some definition around the waist.

Belt it out

Or rather, out with the belt. If you were around in the 80s you may well like the idea of adding a good chunky belt to your jumpsuit, and theoretically the look may even be pleasing, but it’s not really the done thing at the moment. And since purchasing a jumpsuit in the first place is a win for the fleeting fancy of fashion, you’re best to play by the rules.

Here are a few jumpsuits I reckon are fit for beginners.

I love Oliver Bonas, I do. Pay them a visit if this blue number catches your eye. £42.

I love Oliver Bonas, I do. Pay them a visit if this blue number appeals. £42.

Bargain little black number from Dorothy Perkins, £22 or 30% off if you buy now.

Bargain little black number from Dorothy Perkins, £22 or 30% off if you buy now.

Lily print from Dorothy Perkins - £38 but 30% off at the moment

Lily print from Dorothy Perkins – £38 but 30% off at the moment

asos orchid

This orchid print jumpsuit, £45 from Asos, feels rather elegant.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gratuitous glittery entry. Even if you don't  like this particular execution, this is a good standard shape to look out for - though perhaps with a skinner waist band. £24.99 from H&M

What can I say; it’s glittery! Even if you don’t like this particular suit, this is a good standard shape to look out for – though perhaps with a skinner waist band. £24.99 from H&M

 

 

 

 

 

Tocks I’d tick

Who’d have thought it would be so hard to find an attractive alarm clock? Having dedicated the month of June to getting a good night’s kip, I mentioned in my last post that I would be ditching my smartphone’s alarm in favour of a more old-school approach. Less blue-light emitting, melatonin-suppressing and all. But I draw the line at putting ugly things next to my bed! If you too are thinking of going back to basics, here is my pick of the most attractive – and affordable – alarm clocks currently available. And yes, they all promise to tick silently.

Click on the image to go direct to the store.

Green dreams - £11.95 from Amazon

Green dreams – £11.95 from Amazon

Back in time Bakelite style - £9.99 from Filoro Gifts

Back in time Bakelite style – £9.99 from Filoro Gifts

Old style in the pink - £12.98 from Amazon

Old style in the pink – £12.98 from Amazon

Sweet tweet! Birdie alarm clock - £38 from Amazon

Sweet tweet! Birdie alarm clock – £38 from Amazon

Small Karlsson clock - £35 from the White Company

Small Karlsson clock – £35 from the White Company

Happiness is a good night’s sleep

laugh and sleepToday I am sulking. Yes, I am a happiness evangelist and yet I am sulking. Why? Because for the second time this week, I spent most of the night calculating how much sleep I would get if I fell asleep now.

Or now.

Or now.

On both occasions my brain and I did this numerical dance until 6am. Perhaps most worryingly, I could actually feel my heart taking strain as it battled through each revolution of the clock. This, ladies and gentlemen, is not conducive to a happy day.  Or the operation of heavy machinery.

It’s no secret that sleep is important for both physical and mental wellbeing. Most of us were raised on the line “early to bed, early to rise makes a man (erm, or woman) healthy, wealthy and wise.” But despite this we all seem pretty darn determined to live on less and less sleep. “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”, we say, or – and with no small amount of pride –  “no rest for the wicked.” Like presenteeism at work, we love being seen to be busy. Busy, busy, busy. Sure, it means we get lots of other things done, but are we really enjoying them to the full or performing at our peak?

Personally, I know I am not which is why I have decided to stand up to my insomnia and recalibrate my capacity for happiness by declaring June the month of good sleep. Having spent much of today reading up about the art of sleep from my horizontal position on the sofa, this is what I plan to do:

Give up alcohol

The notion of a nightcap is understandable when you consider that a wee tipple may indeed help you nod off. However, the London Sleep Centre warns that alcohol reduces how much time we spend in rapid eye movement (REM) sleep – the stage of sleep where dreams generally occur and when our bodies carry out important repair work, even reorganising our memories to make more space for the next day’s short term memory requirements. I am not a heavy drinker by any stretch of the imagination, but I absolutely notice the effect it has on my sleep pattern and quite frankly, my body could use the break.

Say goodbye mobile, hello old school alarm clock

birdie clock

A better way to Tweet from bed.

Many of us keep our mobile phones next to our beds at night, mostly, we might claim, to use the alarm clock function. In fact a recent HuffPost/You Gov survey revealed that 63% of smartphone users aged 18-29 actually sleep with their cell phone, smartphone or tablet in their bed! As we’re starting to see, this really isn’t a very smart idea. Not only are our bodies more sensitive to the blue light emitted, their mere presence leads to hypervigilance, a state in which our subconscious feels compelled to ‘keep an eye’ on our phones in case someone calls or texts. Researcher Russell Johnson, an assistant professor of management at Michigan State University says that smartphones are almost perfectly designed to disrupt sleep: “Because they keep us mentally engaged late into the evening, they make it hard to detach from work so we can relax and fall asleep.” Time to snap up one of these little birdie clock (available from Amazon) methinks.

Wind down before turning in

I know, this is hard, especially if, like me, you don’t often get home before 8.30pm. It’s very tempting to try and milk each hour but we’d probably find ourselves more efficient during the day if we set aside at least 45 minutes to wind down before bed. My goal for the month of June is to get into the habit of switching off by 9.45pm. That means switching off computers, mobile phones, and, most importantly, my brain!

Get up earlier

This one may not appear to make sense, but for me the reason I find myself staying up so late is to try and fit in all those personal things I didn’t have time to do during my work day. The upshot is that I don’t wind down, have a rubbish night’s sleep, and have to drag myself out of bed in the morning. And I’m not particularly effective during the day as a result. To remove the concern that there are not enough hours in the day, I figure if I go to bed earlier and get a better quality sleep, I should have no problem getting up earlier. And by doing so I’ll gain an hour or two to get all those nagging personal tasks done.

I confess, I am not sure exactly how I am going to fare but if Arianna Huffington can do it, well then I really don’t have any excuse. She is in fact one of the most vocal proponents of getting more sleep. She installed two nap rooms for her staff at the Huffington Post, gave a popular TED talk on the benefits of adequate rest, and dedicates a large part of her book “Thrive” to the subject. I am no expert – yet – but I reckon it’s all down to planning, discipline and respecting your body. And I’m rather looking forward to giving myself permission to turn in early with one of my many neglected books – happiness is! 

 

An ode to Google image search

Thank you, Google, thank you.

Thank you, Google, thank you.

I have always believed that washing one’s car is tantamount to doing a rain dance. Truly there’s nothing as effective as a buff and polish to bring out the rain gods and an array of sodden tree debris.

Recently, I also learned that a sure fire way to see yourself parted from your favourite pair of earrings is to approach your jewellery box, gently elevate said earrings in two-handed reverence, and say to yourself: “If I could only own one pair of earrings, these would be the ones.”

Yes, I actually did this.

Some three hours later my desert island earring dreams were dashed as I returned from a panicked trip to the Apple store one earring short.

Oh woe was me. Oh woe indeed. The fact that my little bits of cream filigree cost me all of about £2 from Accessorize several years ago is entirely irrelevant, the fact is that these earrings WENT. WITH. EVERYTHING!

I pictured my single lost earring cavorting with other singles in that place where independent socks disappear to as I immediately set to work online to try and find a replacement pair. This was harder than I thought. Until a friend told me about Google image search.

Eureka! What a discovery! You can’t do it from a tablet or smartphone, but from a laptop or desktop you are now able to upload an image and search for its likeness. I am told this is particularly useful when wanting to verify the validity of online dating profile photos.

I gleefully hopped over to Google Image Search, uploaded a photo of the more loyal earring of the two and voila, options appeared! I may have had to fork out a little more than £2, but I am thrilled that an Etsy package from Sweet & Simple  is heading my way as I type.

Thank you Google, thank you.

It ends with an ‘x’

Surely the most emotionally loaded letter in the alphabet. It’s hardly a letter anymore, is it? I mean apart from ‘X is for xylophone’ how often do you use it in an actual word? Hell, if X hadn’t found a use as a symbol for kiss it would be sitting in the JobCentre right now, trying desperately to prove that it could be just as useful as any of those smug vowels. Who does ‘E’ think he is anyway?

Fortunately X is an alphabetical entrepreneur, blazing a trail across the written world. And thanks to the advent of electronic media, X’s brand value has sky-rocketed. There is still no emoticon that can carry the power of the X. It is the coca-cola of the alphabet.

But like coca-cola, too much X can rot your teeth. Er, okay, maybe not your teeth, but too many Xs can’t be good for you. But how to decide just how many Xs to use and when? Is it ever appropriate to include Xs in work emails between colleagues? If your friend sends you a text splattered with 57 Xs at the end are you obliged to respond in equal measure?

Me, I’m not what you would call a terribly active X-ercist. Sure, I like a good X as much as the next person, but too many of the critters make me itch. Kinda like reality TV. My default, with friends and family only, is the lower case twinset: xx. If it’s your birthday, if you’ve done something particularly lovely or if I just plain dig you lank, I’ll probably extend that to triplets: xxx. Admittedly one little x can be tricky to interpret because it could mean any of:

  • We’re super comfortable with each other and one x is all it takes to let you know that I think you’re brilliant.
  • You started the whole x business so I kinda feel obliged to reply in kind.
  • I like you, but I don”t think I know you well enough to give you more than one x yet.

Then there’s the big guy; the upper case X. Sometimes used purely by accident thanks to predictive capitalisation but if intentional, it’s definitely the sign of “love you long time”.

I’ll tell you straight, this is likely to be the only blog post that I end with an X. Not because I don’t like you, mind – I’m sure you’re a delight – but you know, I’m just not that kind of girl.

x

Oh, what the hell…

xx

Well look what we have here…

…my very own website with my very own name emblazoned across the front. How perfectly vulgar. And yet shamefully satisfying.

I’ll be the first to admit that I thrive under a bit of attention, but there is a still enough of the polite Catholic schoolgirl in me to think putting your own name up in virtual lights may be considered in poor taste. But I am sure once I have tutted the appropriate quotient of tuts I shall embrace my new online home and use it as a vehicle to achieve the bigger life I am after.

Because jensmit.com (and jensmit.co.uk I’ll have you know) is a small part of a grand plan. A plan designed to shake off the corporate dust-jacket this risk-averse employee has been comfortably hiding under for the past 14 years in favour of an owned career true to the grammar obsessed, style-conscious, happiness evangelist that I am.

As for a job title – pish! Answering the question “what do you do?” with a job title is wholly undermining of the complex characters we all are. Answering the question “who are you?” feels far more authentic. For both my living and my life I feel the following three tags best describe not just what I do but who I am right now: WordSmit*, style queen, happiness evangelist.

It follows then that this blog will be my playpen for sharing all things wordy, pretty and life-affirming. Come follow me down the rabbit hole – it’s bound to be fun!