Friday, March 30, 2012

If you, or any of your friends, would like to join me...

You're planning to go on a holiday. You invite some of your friends along, but not most of them - this being one of those "no riff-raff" trips. Maybe one or two of those you invite have actually been to (or, at least, near to) this place and would be more than useful to have around. But that's not why you invite them, mind - at least, that's not the only reason. You invite them because they're lovely people and you would love their company.

But the place is far, far away, and very, very expensive and there are reasons why they may want to decline:-

a) They'd rather not go with you.
b) It's either too far away, or too expensive, or takes just too much time, or it's not normally any of those three, but this particular year, they're planning to buy a house, and so...
c) They would very much like to go, but they've already made vacation plans with some other friends of theirs, and they would go with you if they could only get their other friends along, but since the invitation is yours, they couldn't very well ask you if they could do that, because then you'd be forced to say "yes" even if you didn't want their friends along, and everyone would have a miserable time. So, they'd sadly, but politely, decline giving Reason A or B; most likely B, because A doesn't go very well with the "politely" part. This is surprisingly common.

There isn't much you can do about A or B, but in the case of C, since the invitee is someone you trust (somewhat), you want them to feel free to bring their friends along, if not having them is what would stop them from saying "yes" to you. You don't particularly want their friends along, mind*; even (otherwise) discerning people sometimes have a way of collecting riff-raff about them. But because you'd like to have them (the invitee, that is) along, and because you're sure that they wouldn't ask anyone along who'd screw up your holiday, and because you don't want them to beg off just because of other commitments that take priority only because of the "first come, first serve" principle (and the "I don't want to do this twice" principle), you grit your teeth and ask their friends along, too.

And that is how the phrase "if you, or any of your friends, would like to join me..." evolved over the years - a time-honoured short-hand. Does it not save us from putting all those troublesome paragraphs into words? Is not little white lies like it, that are a nod to our essential humanity, our hard-earned politeness, the stuff that civilisation is based on?

So imagine my astonishment when one invitee, declining the trip citing Reason B, promised something along the lines of "But don't you worry, you lonely old wretch, I'll get someone to go with you." No, no, no! That's not what I meant at all!

Is the fault, dear friends, in me, the invitee or the stars? Was my understanding of the phrase wrong all along? Can the fault be pinned on fiery balls of hydrogen thousands of light years away? Is the "or" in the sentence meant to be taken literally? And if I'd used "and" instead, might not the same literal-minded invitee have declined me on the grounds that he or she had no friends who wanted to make this trip, and, whilst he or she would have  been happy enough to join me, he or she will not be able to, because he or she can't satisfy the second part of the and clause.

To those who know Regex, what I'm looking for here is the English equivalent of Invitee plus /.*/ (not Invitee or /.+/).

*This, though, is where I would like to assure the vast "folks who tagged along with friends on holidays planned by total strangers" demographic that some of my best friends now are people who were originally just friends of people I really wanted to have with me on a trip. Please don't stop reading my blog just because you've misunderstood what I'm trying to say here.

Friday, March 23, 2012

To boldly quote what others may very well have quoted before

I'm two seasons into the gorgeous blu-ray set of the original series of Star Trek. These quotes here are some of my favourites, highlighting the show's sense of adventure, its ideals, and above all, its campiness. I would've liked to add "sense of wonder" to the list, mostly because it fits any agenda to promote something; but 40 years later, I don't think this aspect of the show comes across too well - and even less so in the dialogue.

Title sequence

Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission: to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilisations, to boldly go where no man has gone before.

:Spock's father, Sarek, is Vulcan. His mother, Amanda, is human. His father, a Vulcan Ambassador, is on board the Enterprise, along with other delegates from over a 100 Federation planets, en-route to an important inter-planetary conference. He takes ill suddenly, and Spock is the only one who can give him the blood to save his life. But Captain Kirk has been wounded, and Spock is now in command:

Amanda: Spock, you must turn command over to somebody else. 
Spock: Mother, when I was commissioned, I took an oath to carry out responsibilities which were clearly and exactly specified. 
Amanda: Any competent officer can command this ship. Only you can give your father the blood transfusions that he needs to live. 
Spock: Any competent officer can command this ship under normal circumstances. The circumstances are not normal. We're carrying over one hundred valuable Federation passengers. We're being pursued by an alien ship. We're subject to possible attack. There has been murder and attempted murder on board. :pauses, and turns away: I cannot dismiss my duties. 
Amanda: Duty? Your duty is to your father. 
Spock: I know. But this must take precedence. If I could give the transfusion without loss of time or efficiency, I would. Sarek understands my reason. 
Amanda: Well, I don't. It's not human. :her voice softens, as he turns to face her again: Oh, that's not a dirty word. You're human, too. Let that part of you come through. Your father's dying. 
Spock: Mother, how can you have lived on Vulcan so long, married a Vulcan, raised a son on Vulcan, without understanding what it means to be a Vulcan? 
Amanda: Well, if this is what it means, I don't want to know. 
Spock: It means to adopt a philosophy, a way of life, which is logical and beneficial. We cannot disregard that philosophy merely for personal gain, no matter how important that gain might be. 
Amanda: Nothing is as important as your father's life. 
Spock: Can you imagine what my father would say if I were to agree? If I were to give up command of this vessel, jeopardise hundreds of lives, risk interplanetary war, all for the life of one person? 
Amanda: When you were five years old and came home stiff-lipped, anguished, because the other boys tormented you, saying that you weren't really Vulcan. I watched you, knowing that inside... the human part of you was crying. And I cried too. There must be some part of me in you, some part that I still can reach. If being Vulcan is more important to you, then you'll stand there speaking rules and regulations from Starfleet and Vulcan philosophy, and let your father die. And I'll hate you for the rest of my life. 
Spock: :almost pleading: Mother...
Amanda: Oh, go to him. Now. Please. 
Spock: I cannot.

:She slaps him and storms out:

:Kirk and Spock are locked up in a cell, awaiting execution by alien Nazis:
:Kirk comes up with a very cunning plan:

Kirk: If we can get to the S.S. Weapons Laboratory, get our weapons back, we might be able to stop the slaughter of the Zeons. We must get our communicators and contact the ship. 
Spock: I must point out, captain, the flaw in the plan is this locked door, and the guard beyond it. To the logical mind, the outlook is somewhat gloomy.
Kirk: Hmm...

Spock: What brings you here? 
Rojan: Within ten millennia, high radiation levels in our galaxy will make life there impossible. So the Kelvan Empire sent forth ships to explore other galaxies, to search for one which our race could conquer and occupy. 
Kirk: Well, sorry, this galaxy is already occupied.


:Kirk steamily kisses Kelinda like no man has kissed her before:

Kelinda: Is there some significance to this action? 
Kirk: :lost for words for a moment: Well, among humans, it's, uh, meant to express... warmth and love. 
Kelinda: :flicker of understanding: Oh, you're trying to seduce me. I have been studying you. 
Kirk: :looking petrified: Me? 
Kelinda: All humans. This business of love. You have devoted much literature to it. Why do you build such a mystique around a simple biological function? 
Kirk: :lost for words again: We enjoy it. 
Kelinda: Literature?
Kirk: Kelinda, I'm sorry I brought up the whole subject.

:A bit more dialogue before Rojan walks in just as she's investigating the kissing bit in more detail with Kirk:

Rojan: Is there some problem, captain?
Kirk: Not when I came in. :leaves room:
Rojan: What did he want here?
Kelinda: He came to apologise for hitting me. Apparently, it involves some peculiar touching contact.
Rojan: In what manner?

:She shows him:

Rojan: :taken aback: Very odd creatures, these humans.

:Spock and Kirk are stranded on a hostile planet, and are scrounging for potential weapons:

Spock: Fortunately, this bark has suitable tensile cohesion. 
Kirk: You mean, it makes a good bowstring?
Spock: I believe I said that.

:Pike, held prisoner by aliens, has for company a girl they claim is created from his memories:

Pike: Why are you here?
Vina: To please you.
Pike: Are you real?
Vina: As real as you wish.
Pike: Oh, no. No, that's not an answer. I've never met you before, never even imagined you.
Vina: Perhaps they made me out of dreams you've forgotten.