If I ruled the world

Too many people just don’t know how to behave—or how to use words properly. Fines, jail and shoe-shining duty await them all
May 25, 2011

If I were chief executive of the cosmos, the following individuals would be abolished: Tom Cruise, Mel Gibson, Dick Cheney, Henry Kissinger, Tony Blair, Prince Andrew, Piers Morgan, the BBC’s Ben Brown for his nauseating right-wing bias in reporting a student demo, and Robert Kilroy-Silk (who seems to have abolished himself, thus saving the state the trouble and expense). Brief custodial sentences would be handed out to anyone caught using the following clichés: at the end of the day, over the moon, level playing field, no probs, going forward, pushing the envelope, in the wrong place at the wrong time, drawing a line and moving on.

A system of fines would be instituted for people who say “refute” when they mean “rebut,” “floor” when they mean “ground” and “literally” when they don’t mean literally at all. People who think the phrase “to beg the question” means “to raise the question,” or who think “fortuitous” means “felicitous,” will be issued with a police caution. The promiscuous use of the word “potentially,” as in: “He’s potentially a candidate for the job,” will get you placed under 24-hour surveillance. Prizes will be awarded to those still able to use the colon.

Kate Winslet will come to her senses and realise that she and I are soulmates. I will take her in only, however, if she promises there will be no more embarrassing displays of emotion at Oscar ceremonies. Peter Tatchell will be awarded a medal, equivalent in stature to the Victoria Cross, for his outstanding bravery.

A government inquiry would be tasked with establishing whether Donald Trump is real or fictional. Nick Griffin would be forced to become a shoeshine boy in Lagos, after a lengthy spell of latrine cleaning in Mumbai. Buckingham Palace would become a proper old people’s home, not the approximation to one it is at present.

The city of San Francisco would be moved to within 100 yards of my front door, as would Kate Winslet.

And the following categories of people would be either deported or offered as human sacrifices:

People who bump into you in the street because they are texting. People who spend an interminable amount of time getting into their aircraft seats, oblivious or indifferent to the fact that there are 75 passengers behind them, 20 of whom are out on the aircraft steps in the driving rain.

People who no longer even bother to pretend that they are not listening in on your conversation, and people at the next restaurant table who stare gormlessly at your food for several minutes when it arrives.

People who intone the words “I’m on the train” into a mobile phone the moment the train begins to move. Motorists who fail to indicate at a T-junction (that is everyone in the country except me). People who hold you up by taking their shoes off at airport security even though they are not required to do so. Everyone who for some unaccountable reason has failed to buy a copy of a remarkably cheap, extraordinarily attractive book entitled Why Marx Was Right.

Young people who are bubbly, vivacious, have loads of friends and a wonderful future ahead of them will be required to observe a curfew in the evenings, since the victims of serial killers are always described in these terms. (By some curious sociological law, miserable people never get murdered.) Anyone who is quiet, always has a polite word for his neighbours but keeps himself to himself will be taken instantly into police custody, since this is the way terrorists are invariably portrayed.

The truth is that shaggy, shabby, wild-eyed men sporting Kalashnikovs are completely harmless, rather as men who wear dirty raincoats are never sex maniacs. Terrorists are people who look just like you and me. So if you know anyone who fits this description, stop them immediately.