Sunday, 25 May 2008

A question of style

Yesterday’s Independent had two stories that reflected each other in the revelatory way skewed mirrors sometimes do. The first had to do with Naomi Campbell, who is still spitting fire about her treatment at the hands of British Airways. She denies that the company has banned her from its flights, and her luggage from Terminal Five. It has, however, ‘disrespected’ her. In the Devil Woman’s own, reported, words:

Someone from British Airways asked that I return to fly with them but this will not occur so early. I am speaking for all those that have been disrespected.

As a teacher of English (‘in my spare time’, according to the still mysterious ‘Luke Rocchi’), I wouldn’t know where to start with a text like this. Its sheer unnaturalness suggests machine translation from some arcane bureaucratic dialect. I may be quite wrong, of course; it may simply be the way people chat to one another in the world of high fashion. As in: Jean Paul asked that I share a line of coke in the back room but this will not occur so early. I particularly like the second sentence, which bears no logical connection to the first but smacks of Ms Campbell in what she probably imagines to be Nelson Mandela mode. Naomi, champion of ‘all those that have been disrespected’. It’s good to know she’s prepared to speak up for all the little people whose luggage also went astray but who didn’t have sufficient elegance or promptness of spirit to gob in a copper’s face.

A few pages later in the same issue there’s an article about the cosmetic surgeon, Martin Kelly, who died unexpectedly, and tragically, a few days ago. Kelly spent a fair amount of time reconstructing the septums (septa?) of people who share Ms Campbell’s world and habits, but he also, and principally, dedicated himself to people who don’t, including a small girl in Afghanistan, whose face was so deformed the local Taliban considered her a ‘devil child’ and wanted to have her stoned to death (with stones, not cell phones). Thanks to Kelly’s work, she is no longer a devil child. Now 11, she wrote to thank him:

First of all I say hallow to my doctor Moten Kalli. I’m Hadisa Husain from Afghanistan. I’m at school now and I’m very happy. I don’t have any problem and I’ll never forget you, and I’m waithing for my next opration. Thank you.

The spelling might not be perfect, but for efficacy of communication Campbell could learn a thing or two from it. No disrespect intended.


Wendell Ricketts said...

Reminds me of Gloria Yamato's observation nearly twenty years ago in _Making Face/Making Soul_, that it wasn't always easy to tell who was holding the racism end of the stick and who was getting beat with it. That Campbell -- who seems to be trying to live out some real-life version of _The Devil Wears Prada_ -- has the nerve to talk about disrespect strikes me as one of the better developed absurdities I've encountered lately. Not to mention (if we have to be reduced to talking about the actual facts) her equation of getting a bag lost with an act of personal disrespect. There's perhaps nothing in the world more democratic than the way airlines (mis)handle luggage....

Ms Baroque said...

Oh, this so-called verb, 'disrespect' - it makes me tired. She just sounds like every pipsqueak (& I say pipsqueak but I did once get hit in the head by one of them) kid on the bus in Hackney. Once in a Turkish chip shop in the Lower Clapton Road some tiny little black kid went out and came back with his mother, who came in screaming and yelling at the chippy about how her kid was being disrespected and it was racism etc, all because he was having to stand in the queue.

Anyway, the beauty of Campbell's statement is that everyone in the world knows how badly BA must really want her to fly with them.

That letter from the little girl is beautiful.

Kay Sexton said...

A teacher friend of mine on Trinidad has a cartoon pinned up in her classroom showing a surly, ill-clad, ganja-smoking youth with dreadlocks - under it is written The Dreaded Disrespec'. It's noticable that young people in her class never use this ghastly non-word, at least where she can hear them!

David Isaak said...

"Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning not to be disrespected..."