I am the first to admit that much of the modern world passes me by, to the bewilderment and annoyance of my family and friends. Skype, Spotify, Bluetooth, video games, Alexa – all are, happily, closed books to me, and long may they stay so. Especially Alexa: a news story suggested that he, she or it – make your own mind up – could be listening into your conversations and then acting on them. Well, if you’ve got one, good luck and more fool you.
Yet in some things, I like to think that I’m pretty much abreast. Take coffee. Yes, in my day, it was black or white, one sugar or two. But many is the time that I’ve stood in the queue waiting to order a humble cappuccino, while some hipster is ordering a triple shot skinny macchiato with almond milk and trying to pay for it with his watch – it is always a man. The watch malfunctions and off he slinks, a portrait of dejection and rightly derided from the rear of the queue.
Yet, last week, I was truly confounded by a sign, writ large in 6in letters in a pub in London – “handcrafted coffee”. What? That slop of frothy nonsense was actually going to be made by a human being, operating a machine that is designed to make varieties of coffee? It brought to mind Auberon Waugh presented with a choice piece of jargonese: “I thought I understood the English language well enough, but just what the fucking, sodding, shitting hell is this sentence trying to tell us?”’
And I’m indebted to a colleague for pointing out a prime piece of bilge from the Art Newspaper, which alleged that museums are “deaccessioning their collection as a quick fix for financial trouble”. I imagine this means they are flogging off their treasures, but who can be certain? Still, I’m sure that if I had a ristretto I could make head or tail of it.
• Jonathan Bouquet is an Observer columnist
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