Monday, 21 December 2009


DictionariesImage by jovike via Flickr

Language is a funny thing: when you're writing, sometimes you have to stop in mid-flow and cast about for the right tword, the mot juste. Sometimes your choice of word can be telling - and make the difference between how things appear. Sometimes a word can give away what you're really thinking and not what you'd like to project - what you'd like people to think you're thinking.

There are two words that are part of my everyday life that I believe are telling in this way. They're used by my bank, HSBC. No doubt selected thoughtlessly and dashed down in seconds as a tiny part of the greater job of building a sprawling empire of flawless customer service, they do rather give the game away.

When I use telephone banking, a service that I truly appreciate as it has meant I have had to make only infrequent visits to the branch and therefore have been largely able to avoid interacting with the drooling, slack-jawed incompetents that infest the place, I frequently make transfers between accounts. When this process is successful (which is quite frequently, as no member of the bank's staff has the chance to insert themselves between me and the computer), I get the message 'Your request has been processed.'

This is a screech to a stop moment for me every time. It's my money and you're providing a service to me in return for which I pay you. So it's not a request really, is it? It's an instruction. I am instructing you to do something, not begging a favour. I'm wearing the big boots, I'm the customer and it's a bloody instruction to you regarding the arrangement of my assets.

When I use an ATM to take money from my account (again a process that is frequently successful for precisely the same reason that telephone banking works - its totally automated and as long as you don't want to do anything in any way slightly unusual or intuitive, you're onto a winner) and the ATM confirms that I'm about to get my money, it tells me 'Your withdrawal has been accepted'.

Again, I apply the old locked brakes here. Accepted? Like an officious dame ticking a box to confirm that I don't have any threateningly anti-social tendencies and can, indeed, use the swimming pool, my bank is accepting my request to take some of money out of my account. And here was me thinking that my instruction was being processed.

I'm the punter, not a beggar in front of a mosque. Those two little weasel words are a constant reminder to me that HSBC's view of our relationship is somewhat different. To paraphrase the bank's intensely annoying UK advertising campaign:

Customer Beggar Beggar Customer

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Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist! said...

lol "Beggar at the mosque." good point about the use of language there.

Phillipa said...

The baggage some words carry around can sometimes be too weighty for the context they find themselves in, eg. 'ginger' and 'whiskers'

Anonymous said...

Calm down.

lucias george said...

i feel you fail to take into account several key issues here.

Firstly these things are written, actually, programmed by a geek. Geeks don't have the greatest articulation of the english language or interpersonal skills.

Secondly, as its written by a geek its actually being matter of fact. Your request is being processed, this does not mean that the bank are considering it but more that the system is ensuring it can carry out this transaction. You have requested the computer to do something with your money.

The same is with your instructions being processed. Before the computer can give your money it must process the transaction.

Us geeks are very literal and like our semantics :)

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