Le Coup – Quatrième Colonne

The social cut is so long-standing as to have gathered a set of rules governing its use. They are as useful today as they were in the 18th and 19th century – people may have cars, computers, and cash these days but they are basically the same inside as they always were. If you doubt this get an old copy of Gray’s Anatomy and a scalpel, but don’t blame me if the police intervene.

a. Le coup absolu is a direct confrontation between two people where one does not acknowledge the other in any way. It can be devastatingly insulting and if seen by others, socially demeaning.

b. This form of cut must be deliberate and obvious to the victim.

c. Gentlemen must never cut a lady.

d. Unmarried ladies are not to cut married ladies.

e. The social cut cannot be employed within military or naval circles. While this is not a rule adhered to entirely, the good of the service requires that all instances of it are either suppressed or addressed.

f. Hosts cannot cut their guests.

g. Cuts cannot be done indiscriminately or for light purpose. They could have serious consequences for both parties – if between equals the cut may provoke a challenge and if between disparate classes it might redound badly. Some social cuts destroy careers and marriages.

There is little enough general society these days – the class system having realigned itself around money rather than birth – and the population having grown so much as to diffuse contact and/or interest. People can get fame or notoriety, but it is rare that enough people focus upon them long enough to grant them real respectability. To get this, one must go into the smaller divisions of organisation – the social club, the hobby group, the sporting association. You might even need to go down as close as the family before you find respect or notice.

Thus the loss of social status that someone who was snubbed might have felt in 1850 does not generally exist now. It might still be operating for someone who has been suspected of a major crime but has escaped conviction – they may find themselves refused entry to the social scene they once frequented. People might avoid them in public. They might find that their careers are blighted. The curse of widespread modern communication and the free interchange of information might also mean that they cannot find rest or respect elsewhere. Mind you, Cain had his problems too…

But snubbing, cutting, and general exercise of hubris may backfire. The story of Beau Brummel’s snubbing by the Prince Regent is well documented in Wikipedia. It notes the reasons why it was done and his rather foolish reaction – judge for yourself when you read it. The Prince Regent was seen as abusing his power and Brummel had enough social steam to ride it out. Of course Brummel’s own lifestyle could never be sustained and he was lost to France and debt…but take it as a lesson to be careful who you cut and why. If you do it unnecessarily you do it wrong.





Le Coup – Deuxième Colonne

The written coup is a more interesting intellectual exercise than the spoken one – requiring as it does the same motif but adding the need for writing ability, opportunity, and method of delivery. It can be a rarer and more dangerous thing.

a. Direct letters from you to the person you wish to cut are not very common. Few people choose to send a direct confrontation that brooks no misunderstanding. Letters expose your intention, and can be kept for evidence. They invite return communication in a way that a spoken cut does not.

They have the advantage of being private if you so direct them – registered mail to be signed for with an external note that it is private and confidential usually succeeds in this. Placing a sealed envelope directly into the hand of the victim is even surer.

Any disclosure of the contents is then for the recipient – they may wish to explode publicly or privately. But they cannot accuse you of defamatory publication.

b. Public posting is much more dangerous, as it can lead to legal action. If you make your cut public knowledge you cannot retract it or hide it – the best you can do is make it vague. This is the basis of any number of social media posts.

Some people do need public posting, particularly if the public needs protection from them. This is rarely the job of a private person, though, as they generally do not have all the facts of a case, and in any case do not have the authority of police or court to back them up. In all instances it is best to discuss it with the staff at the police station desk and be guided by their advice.

c. Official complaint is not really within the purview of this column’s subject, but if you need to make one, make it through the correct channels if possible. Start low and polite and if you are taken notice of – be satisfied with that. Quit there. If you are ignored, go one step higher, but still be polite. Arm yourself with the name and rank of whoever failed to address your first approach. You may find that you have to climb many administrative steps to get to a real response, but remember that in Australia a real response is possible.

If you are a crank, ignore the above advice.


Le Coup – Premier Colonne

Warning – Do not read the columns dealing with this subject if you are of a dark mind. It will deal with terrible matters. Go out into the sunshine and play fetch with the pterodactyl.

A previous column dealt with breaking social ties, and tried to do it…nicely. This one explains how to do it…nevertheless.

The coup or cut is a social action that has a long history. Ever since people have been talking to each other, there have been occasions when they did not talk. In some cases this silence has been very pointed and /or very loud. In some cases it has done good, but in many more the effect has been bad. That is what makes it such a delightful topic.

The act of snubbing someone can be done by various means. Today, the voice:

a. Le Coup Vocale – Note: if my use of the French language seems a little mangled, do not be concerned. The Academie Francaise has issued me with a free pardon if I promise to stop ringing their office.

The spoken snub can be very effective in putting someone down. Or putting them off, if that is the intention. If it is long-winded it is re-categorised into a deliberate insult and can provoke retaliation, but if it is kept short – a one or to word reply  – and done coldly, it serves as a blow that is not returned. At least not immediately.

You can still use a single word in this context to drive deep into someone if you accompany it with a sneer or a laugh. If you know the other’s deepest anxieties you can often encapsulate them in that word, and even if it is innocent in another context, it can devastate.

b. Le Coup En Passant – while le coup vocale and le coup en passant may both involve words, the former is a direct shot and the latter a glancing one. A word spoken in passing, or spoken as to be overheard can be a subtler way of delivering the message – but as the message is still of contempt, it is just as powerful when directed at an angle as when it is straight on.

Beware. As the blow strikes the initial reaction of the target will be to say ” What did you just say? “…and you must either repeat it or be thought a coward. What happens next can be unpredictable.

c. Le Coup Indiscret – this sounds saucy, but need not be. It merely means a blow delivered when the victim cannot hear it. It needs be heard by someone, though, and you can choose whether to speak it in the hearing of a mutual acquaintance or a stranger. In the case of he former it can be a very mild thing – if the latter it  needs to be spicier to be worth noting.  Try to select the most indiscreet person you can to hear it…it will go further.

d. Le Coup Obscène – No, really, this is not done. It is not necessary and only lowers you. Govern yourself – resist the temptation.

Next chapter – the written coup.


Moving On With Life

Recently I met someone who told me that they were moving on with their life. They’d gotten to a point where the older associations and interests no longer satisfied them. They were going to seek new things.

I recognised the feeling – it has happened to me on a number of occasions in the past and I suspect it will happen again in the future. I am not sure if this means life for me will be better or worse, but in any case it will be different.

Breaking ties to the past can be problematical – it’s not just the mafia that is hard to leave – many innocent social groups are just the same. We need to observe some niceties when we do:

a. Do your changing for yourself – not for someone else. By this I mean do not leave friends or family because someone else tells you to. Whether your departure is a good idea or a bad idea, it must come from you alone.

b. Do not leave mad. Even if you are angry, repress this so that no-one is subject to it. You can discharge it elsewhere another time. If there is to be any leave-taking do it upon friendly grounds if at all possible. At least try for civility.

c. Do not announce your leave-taking generally. There may be some people to whom it is politic to make your congé, but these are generally very few these days. There is no nobility any more, and the people you need to deal with are officials or employers. There are accepted forms of severance and you would do well to observe them.

d. Do not expect mourning or great consternation. That might be evidenced if you were to die tragically but then you’d never see it. If you angle for it to gratify your ego while you are still here, you’ll be horrified to find it does not exist. The world turns without you very well.

e. Make no explanations, provide no justification. If there are reasons, they can remain within you and make you a stronger, better person in the future. You really only need to account to courts and the ATO, and if they are not involved, the rest is a private matter.

f. Leave no debts. If anything is demanded of you, consider whether it is justified. Whatever you honourably owe, pay. If you do not owe anything, smile and decline.

g. Do not return. If you think yourself improved by leaving a social circle, consider that you may also have improved that circle by your decision. Don’t go back and spoil the thing.

h. Go out and begin afresh in the social scene. You have learned a great deal about other people and, hopefully, something about yourself. Make use of the knowledge.

i. If you meet old companions, partners, acquaintances, group members in the future…and you will… be gracious. They’ll think better of you, and so will you.


The Virtue Signal Has Two Settings

Australia’s national civil holiday is called Australia Day. It is celebrated on January 26…recorded as the day that the First Fleet…of convict and settler ships… landed in what is now New South Wales. Like the 4th of July in the United States, the 1st of July in Canada, and the 14th of Juillet in France, it is generally a day of national pride and joy.

Some claim not so. There are some indigenous groups and political activists who refer to it as Invasion Day, and like similar minded activists in some cities in the USA who want to rename Columbus Day, they seek to press their sense of outrage upon modern citizens. Some local councils who have a high proportion of activists in their area have gone along with this in the past couple of years and refused a civic celebration of the day.

In most cases the residents of their communities have ignored the political opportunists and gone ahead and had a good time on the day, but it is interesting to see the occasional person try to join in on an individual basis…for whatever purpose they imagine will be served.

The federal government is having none of this nay-saying on a local council level. If local councils refuse to perform citizenship ceremonies on the day, they face the prospect of being dismissed and replaced. So far no state government controversy seems to have arisen.

Silly? Petty? Opportunistic? Well, the readers have to decide for themselves…but I must say I have taken a little amusement on my own social media page to see a chance acquaintance try for her moment of virtue with a posting. I’m sure she’ll get it. And it would be churlish to deny her…people in the entertainment business need all the publicity available.

As for me, I’m going to watch the Australia Day parade and cheer the dancing Japanese ladies and the Indian Seniors as they go by. They are happy to be part of the nation and so am I.

Talk Clean To Me, Baby!

I have a secret to tell you. You must not never, ever, tell nobody never. Promise.


Well, umm…err…umm. Here it is…

I don’t like dirty talk in bed. Or out at the dinner table. Or on the footpath. Or during surgical operations. I’m not even sure whether it is proper during artillery bombardments.

You may ask me to frangle your jangle or express the wish to molyp my polyp, but as soon as you shout it out, I want to put on my overcoat and leave. Frangling and molyping is all very well, but let us preserve a decent silence while it is going on.

Likewise the business of being a right little foul mouth during normal business hours. It may be the new norm of social conversation and I may be a hidebound old puritan for avoiding bad language, but if you wish to obtain my complete cooperation, do not descend. I know the words, and I know what they mean, but I do not wish them thrown at me in normal conversation. There’ll be a little leeway granted in the matter of emotion if you are being eaten by a crocodile at the time, but short of that…no.

Is there anything you should say to increase my interest or ardour?

” Here, have a cocktail and a bowl of snacks. ” is a good start.

” Does this ( garment ) make my ( portion ) look big? ” is always a good conversation starter as long as you are not going to get angry if I say ” yes “.

” Do you want a ride in my hot rod/custom car/vintage limousine? ” will ensure complete attention.

Past this, the thing becomes a matter for speculation. If you resort to foreign speech or sign language I have no idea what will take place next.


The Etiquette Of The Anonymous Note

Nearly everyone I know has, at one time or another, received an anonymous note or letter*. Frequently these have been disturbing or distressing and have led to serious social and family consequences. Divorces, dismissals, disgraces…the list is nearly endless. It has long seemed to be the bane of civilisation.

And it is not just the badly worded sheet of cheap paper in the letter box or under the door, either – these days the internet brings this sort of thing in through the screen all day. If it is not your email that receives it, it is your Facebook or Twitter or Instagram. Some days all you can do is to open the thing and look at the cartoon strips.

We’ve been asked here at the Guild how this sort of thing can be dealt with – a good question, an innocent question, and a wrong question. We cannot advise you how it can be dealt with…we can advise you how to deal it out.

As with all Guild activities, there is an etiquette that must needs be followed. We are not savages..though we do employ them at fair union rates for certain jobs…and we insist that members follow the  rules of civil incivility.

a. Only use anonymity if you send a note that accuses without offering proof. If you can actually prove miscreancies or worse, attend the Blackmail Office and ask for a consultation with one of our operatives. Everything you say will be kept in strict confidence until it can be published widely.

b. Anonymity need not be wretched or small. The practice of using cheap note paper from Woolworths and a builder’s crayon to hint that a Duchess carries a loathsome disease is not only dated but ineffective. The terror of discovery is much worse if the stationery is of extremely good quality and the note seems to have been written with a Montblanc Meisterstück fountain pen in a precise copperplate hand.

If you can obtain letterhead paper from a doctor’s office for this purpose, so much the better. A nice touch is to get it from an ophthalmic specialist.

c. If you feel you must use a pseudonym, either make it extremely crude or extremely elegant. ” Your Friend ” is neither of these: ” yor frend ” serves and ” One who Loves you ” even better if you can get a delicate purple ink.

” The Black Hand ” is comic-book stuff and unless you are writing anonymously as a former President of the United States, will serve no purpose.

d. Sometimes anonymity can be used repeatedly. If you purport to be ” Anonymous ” as the writer, it can be paired with ” To Whom It May Concern ” ( remember to use those capitals…) to give even more of an air of mystery and menace. If you then go on to hint at What You Know, but never specify who knows what, it can get very diffuse…

e. ” We know what you did ” is an excellent start, but you have to be able to add at least one other fact to start the powder train alight. ” We know what you did when you went into the shed ” is good, and ” We know what you did when you went into the shed with Doreen ” better still. You needn’t know, of course, but then they needn’t know that you needn’t know. You know?

f. In some cases the addressee should be specified very accurately. In others the ” To Whom ” is quite sufficient. In especial cases this vagueness of aim should be combined with a very precise authorship – the note should be signed in the name of a real person with a real address. It need not be your real name, nor your address, of course. Suffice it to say some form of communication will ensue…

g. Some have advocated never threatening things that cannot be performed – but we say, where’s the fun in that? Where would Oriental dictators and Indian telephone callers be if that were the case? So use your imagination, and dig into your own psyche to see what would frighten or distress others.

Are you worried about crayfish? Horrified by water pumps? Depressed by the thought of Johnny Young going to the dentist? Incorporate these into the implied threat of the note. You never know when you’ll strike a chord, or, for that matter, when Young will…

h. Likewise use your own sins and peccadilloes as a stepping stone to imagine those of others. But make ’em worse. It  may be difficult, on this basis, for the Dalai Lama to send a nasty note accusing someone of anything – I mean, what is he going to write? ” You are slightly unsettling…”? It just wouldn’t have all that much impact.

Or maybe it would…if he signed his name in blood.

*  I’m absolutely certain of this, trust me…