Magazine article The Spectator

Kiss Off

Magazine article The Spectator

Kiss Off

Article excerpt

Email signoffs are now competitive displays of bogus emotion

Do you xxxx? Sorry to be impertinent.

Perhaps you simply xx or x? I'm not a natural x'er, but it's hard to resist when everyone else is x'ing all over the place.

Besides, if someone x's you, it would be rude not to x back, right?

Truly, in this age of emotional incontinence, the etiquette of text and email signoffs is becoming a minefield.

In the ever-intensifying arms race to display more and more emotion, even if it is entirely bogus, we are sending little figurative snogs to perfect strangers. We are ending the most businesslike emails with a valedictory expression of love and longing when a 'Kind regards' would do. I'm starting to long for the days when all letters culminated with 'I beg to remain sir, your most humble and obedient servant'. At least we knew where we were then. Now even the simplest of messages can become a car crash of extraneous fervour.

Men, interestingly enough, are the biggest offenders. And not just the sorts of men you would think. The buttoned-up, starchy and diffident are at it too. Peers of the realm, I find, lavish their texts and emails with obscene amounts of x's. The more grand and restrained the exterior, the more x's they seem to spew out. I know of two very pinstriped Tory Cabinet ministers who are mad about x'ing. I'm fairly sure they mean me no passion. But it's rather awkward to have to send them back pretend protestations of affection so as not to upset them by rejecting their fake feelings.

There appears to be no d iv id ing l ine between the political parties on this, either.

I remember when I had not been working in politics long, I texted a female Labour minister to ask her to lunch, and she texted back, 'Lovely! Xx'. Crikey, I thought, and I had one of those moments of panic when someone you barely know x's you for the first time and you think, for a split second, that it might be something romantic.

This quickly dissipates when you realise, usually by looking at the person's phone as they text someone else, that they are x'ing whores. They x everybody. Then you feel a bit hurt. 'It's just meaningless x to you, isn't it?' you think, as you ponder all those crisscrosses that obviously meant nothing.

Perhaps because of the devaluation of the x, a system has sprung up so that people can differentiate the really affectionate x from the merely polite ones. …

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