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For those anaerobic meetings

Samuel Johnson understood that “human life is everywhere a state in which much is to be endured, and little to be enjoyed” — and he never even worked for a corporation.

It’s not just the daily routine meetings that wear at you the most, though you know perfectly well that they operate less for the conduct of business than for aimless pontificating by managers, eager sucking-up by subordinates, inane chatter about sports or television programs, and the announcement arbitrary decrees that serve mainly to get in the way of doing the work.

No, it’s the periodic grand occasions imposed on you — the annual address by the CEO, the seminar on sexual harassment in the Human Resources office — that really fray your patience.

A passage recollected from an issue of Punch from the 1980s may be helpful, a motto for difficult times, something to write down and keep handy in the desk drawer or pocket as a source of inspiration and comfort.

During Margaret Thatcher’s premiership, Punch ran a feature purporting to be Denis Thatcher’s diary — fictitious, of course. In one episode, as he walks toward Westminster Abbey for some state ceremony, he is waylaid by Princess Margaret, who drags him off to a pub, saying:

“If they imagine that we’re going to sit through three mortal hours of this jiggery-pokery without a couple of Big Ones to settle us down, they’re out of their tiny minds.”

And an update:

Many thanks to Steve (comment below) for correcting my faulty memory. The quotation is from a "Dear Bill" feature in Private Eye from 1980.


Posted by John McIntyre at 8:30 AM | | Comments (8)


Time for the Baltimore Sun annual meeting?

Meetings: The practical alternative to work!

Managers love them to showcase their authority; suck-ups love them to demonstrate their osculatory skills before their peers.

Who was the practical person who proclaimed that any meeting lasting longer than ten minutes is a total waste of time?

Thanks JM. Can't wait to use jiggery-pokery before and/or during our next office meeting, depending on whether I can sneak off to a pub beforehand.

And maybe I'll anonymously put a printed version of this blog entry into every mailbox in my company. How do you think that would go over? Do you think the meeting-callers know what annoying B.S. it all is?

BTW, did you see you are being discussed on EL's blog? See monkeys and Palin.

Are you sure you mean Punch? The passage you quote reads more like the 'Dear Bill' letters that appeared in Private Eye. I'd stopped reading Punch by then, though, so I could be wrong.

It's entirely possible that my memory is faulty. Anyone out there able to confirm the source?

Thanks for "anaerobic meetings". I'll be reusing that one. It's already popular in the adjacent cubicles.

My mom just told me about the flash mob meetings they have now at her office, thanks to a consultant (and I thought they were worthless).

Meetings are called and assembled on as-needed basis, at last second, and everyone gathers to address the issue, no one is allowed to sit, everyone must stand. Issue addressed, people disperse.

She says it has been huge success.

Found it! A 'Dear Bill' letter from Private Eye, letter dated 28 March 1980, on the enthronement of Robert Runcie as Archieps Cantuar.

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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