Magazine article The Spectator

The Wiki Man

Magazine article The Spectator

The Wiki Man

Article excerpt

WANTED: Microwave. I am looking for a used microwave. WHITE ONLY.

To Amy******@************.org:

have a LG microwave that I want to sell for $30. I am aware your ad said whites only, but I am an African American. I sincerely hope that we can put race issues aside and just do business.

From Amy ****** to Me:

I am so sorry that you misread my ad. I meant the microwave should be white, because it would match my kitchen.

From Me to Amy ******:

Oh, so because I am black, you think that I can't read. . . I don't think I can sell my microwave to a bigot.

I The originator of this kind of jape was a Cambridge undergraduate and later MP called Humphry Berkeley, who was sent down in 1948 for his prolific letter-writing under the pseudonym of H. Rochester Sneath, headmaster of the fictitious Selhurst School - 'a public school whose name sounded so plausible that no one could doubt its existence'.

Subsequent masters of the art have included William Donaldson (as Henry Root), Ted L. Nancy (American author of Letters from a Nut ) and Robert Popper (author, under the name Robin Cooper, of The Timewaster Letters ).

I admit this is a polarising type of humour, in that some people - like me - find it inexhaustibly funny, while others are left cold. But, love or hate it, what isn't in doubt is that email has brought wonderful new possibilities to the epistolary prankster. Two of its best exponents are an Australian, David Thorne, most famous for attempting to settle an overdue account with a drawing of a spider, and the American John Lindsay, whose book Emails from an A ** hole is published in Britain in September. …

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