Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The State of English in Africa

Despite my utter delight in the absurdity of the weekly offers I get to be paid a stocky percentage for rescuing millions of dollars from the bank accounts of people who've died in plane crashes over the last five years (and my tiny, plaintive wish that I really could walk away with five million or so clear, because I could really use it), the most recent plea brought to my attention the fact that these scammers could really use some help.

"I have an obscured business suggestion for you," says Mr. Johnson Mutambara. Oh, how true. The copy editor in me itches to correct every little spelling and grammatical mistake, tighten up the logical flow of his argument, and tidy up his lines, paragraphs, and fonts as if tapping stacks of paper together.

"Also
Information from the National Immigration stated that he was also
single on entry into South Africa.

I have secretly discussed this
matter with some of the bank officials and we agreed to find a reliable
foreign partner to deal with."

Tidiness! my mind cries. I assume you mean this German citizen who died in the Concorde crash wasn't married. Clarity! Do you mean you would like me to marry him? Does that mean I have to join that obscure branch of Mormonism that practices posthumous marriage?

But maybe there's something further to be read in the avowed obscurity of these letters. Something deep and existential, something James Joyce-ian about the way they redefine our understanding of mundane words, something ...

Nah. What you really need, Mr. Mutambara (or is it Rahim Attah, the name on the return email address?), is to sack your editor and get a new one. I'll do it for one percent of the loot, a bargain compared to the forty percent you were going to pay just for my bank account details. If you can diagram the first sentence of this post, I'll do it for half that.

9 comments:

Anonymous Bosch said...

I had no idea there was such a thing as an interrobang! Why can I not type one?


http://www.worldwidewords.org/weirdwords/ww-int1.htm

Introvert Girl said...

Ah, a question, perhaps, for the wise ones at Microsoft. Or Google. Since Google is on its way to a world takeover.

My niece can now recognize two words. The first is, of course, her name. The second? "Google"!

But you forgot the most important part of the blog: the chocolate!

John Cowan said...

You can type it in Word or Wordpad using 203D followed by Alt-X, and then cut and paste it anywhere, like here: ‽. Or you can use ‽ where HTML is permitted, like here: ‽. Of course, you'll need a suitable font to display it.

Jeff W said...

That, Introvert Girl, was a thoroughly delightful post! Really, I think you should market your editorial skills at the next Nigerian Email Conference (since the last one is long over). (Or you might just try what this guy did, who actually managed to get $3 from one of these schemes.)

Jeff W said...

Or another helpful suggestion—maybe you can team up with Geoff Pullum of Language Log!

Karen M said...

Welcome back, I'Girl!

And thank you for this post-- we have missed you!

I was just looking at a similar email myself, but my thoughts did not tend toward editing...

Antonia said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Introvert Girl said...

Good to be back, too, Karen. Thanks.

Hey, Jeff W, that was the funniest thing I've read in a long time. Thanks! Put me in a good mood for the rest of the weekend. But I can't believe the guy really was stupid enough to send the $3. He deserved the condemnation, and the anti-scammer gets to write his own thesaurus entry for "stupid."

Jeff W said...

Thanks, IG—it's nice to know that made your weekend! I love the way Big Daddy uses caps, exclamation points and breathless phrasing in a sort of code switching to ensnare Mr Escober Tony—and then drops all that entirely as a stunning coup de grĂ¢ce in his final smackdown. It's just immensely satisfying. (There's a great New Yorker story lurking just such an epistolary exchange.)