Tuesday, 14 July 2015

Call My Bluff: 'deskill'

My writing group has disbanded for the summer. At our last meeting, we played Call My Bluff. I wrote this definition of 'deskill'. If you're a big fan of Margaret Thatcher, you may not like it. Or you might. Who knows?

* * * * *

The verb 'to deskill' was coined by Margaret Thatcher in the 1980s, who was horrified to see that members of the working class (and even people from the North) were rising through the ranks of society to take jobs that properly belonged to their betters.

I may be a grocer's daughter, but daddy was a very big cheese in the world of food retail, and his Granny Smiths were enormous too. No, no, Denis, don't make the Cox joke.

She realised that if nothing were done to stop this, it wouldn't be long before Parliament was overrun by MPs who were the children of secretaries. Or worse - miners.

She devised a plan.

People with a working class background, or from the North, were to be restricted to trivial tasks. Lawyers should spend all day photocopying; surgeons instructed to scrub operating theatres with a toothbrush; and if these upstarts could be partially or entirely replaced by machines, so much the better.

What do I mean by 'northern'? North of Grantham.

'But how shall we sell this to them, dear Maggie?' cried the employers, puffing on cigars that had been hand-rolled by four-year-olds manacled to a workbench in Havana. 'Sooner or later, they'll notice what we're doing and go on strike. We need a positive spin.'

'I wouldn't worry about them getting involved in collective bargaining,' said Maggie, and cackled. 'But you're right - we need a neutral-sounding name for it.'

She sent her minions to the United States, to ask George W Bush for his thoughts, even though, back then, he was a young buck with a cocaine habit, and no-one had heard of him.

'Deskillification?' he suggested.

Maggie pondered this. No, that's far too long. it's not like there's a tax on syllables, though that's not a bad idea - write that down, Denis.

And so the word 'deskill' was born. Employers were not trivialising people's jobs, they were generously making them easier by taking away all the challenging bits and, wherever possible, giving them to machines.

Maggie was slightly worried that Mr Bush might one day rise to prominence and attempt to claim credit for the word, but reassured herself that nobody with that degree of ineptitudinessnessness would ever amount to anything.