Saturday, November 14, 2009

Routine observation

If every industry has a language, every person has a schtick.

Observing other people's schtick, or "bits" - an act or routine that's part of the myth of themselves they spin - is one of the two satisfying diversions on offer in the office.

The other is Wikipedia, obviously.

I've lost track of the billable units I've devoted to that cornucopia of half-truths and misinformation. The entry on gonzo journalism is particularly gripping.

But back to the bits.

Of late, I've trained my critical eye on the various specimens that masquerade as masculine on the shop floor.

Take the eastern suburbs egalitarian, for example. This lad borrows bits from the "blokey egalitarian" box of linguistic tricks - an exaggerated "maaaate" or "son" are the terms of address of choice - but is likely to disdain those from the wrong side of the tracks (so-called "Rooty Hill duds").

The B&F cowboy (and his cousin in Mergers & Acquisitions) is also a factory fixture. His raison d'etre? Closing deals. True to the alpha male stereotype, the kid takes his sartorial cues from the School of Rolled-Up Sleeves (looks like he means business, see?) and speaks of deadlines so often it's more a tic than schtick.

Then there's the faux-Oxbridge fop. This twee specimen aspires to a stint at an English finishing school, has Rumpole DVDs on repeat and uses "quite" or "rather" when "yes" would suffice.

Of course, some of the female specimens on display are equally obnoxious.

The world weary miss thinks she's seen it all and is well-placed to offer incisive social commentary on her colleagues. She arches her neck in an attitude of dying swan when forced to photocopy and affects wisdom and maturity by calling work mates "kid".

She likes to think she's above the fray but, as Sam de Brito says so eloquently, she's not the wolf in sheep's clothing.

Just a sheep.

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