The curious case of the missing column

The curious case of the missing column

Many thanks to readers who expressed concern about the non-appearance of PostScript last Sunday. Some feared Crutch might have been under the weather or had even departed for the Great Typewriter in the Sky. Others thought I had fled the scene in a bid to escape Songkran, which in retrospect would not have been a bad idea.

I did have a weird dream earlier last week in which I was confronted by squadrons of angry commas and apostrophes complaining I never put them in the right place. That might well have been an omen.

Fortunately there was no great drama and nothing for Agatha Christie to get involved in. It turned out to be just a classic technical hitch. The column simply disappeared into cyberspace and vanished through a big black hole. Maybe it even reached Outer Space and like David Bowie's Major Tom, ended up "floating in a most peculiar way."

Its non-appearance was primarily a result of my unmatched ineptitude with computers. In the old days they would blame mishaps in newspapers on "gremlins" which often meant somebody had been drunk, incompetent or both. But in the computer age it doesn't take much for things to go awry. Just press the wrong key and all sorts of funny things can happen -- like columns disappearing.

Despite all the latest technology, mistakes still happen and may it long continue. Life would be extremely boring without them.

The paper bag

Writing a column can be a humbling experience. As mentioned in my book The Long Winding Road to Nakhon Nowhere I won't forget the time I arrived at work to find a small package on my desk. I opened it and found it contained a used paper bag popular with street vendors. I was amused to see the bag was from a page of the Bangkok Post and more specifically, the PostScript column.

The sender explained in a note that he bought some fried bananas and was intrigued to find the bag was my column from the previous week. He added, perhaps a little unnecessarily, that he enjoyed the bananas more than the column.

Dingoes don't bark

It was US President Dwight Eisenhower's press secretary James C Hagerty who said: "If you lose your temper at a newspaper columnist he'll get rich, famous or both."

This remark came after he blew his top at Art Buchwald who of course went on to be rich and famous at The Washington Post.

There's no danger of that happening to Crutch but over the years I have earned the wrath of certain citizens although most readers have been extremely tolerant. I recall once being called a "twit" by an English gentleman who didn't agree with something I wrote about Blighty.

There was also a reference to Australia which prompted an antipodean reader to call me a "pommy drongo". Then there was the time I noted how appropriate it was that the prosecutor in the famous "dingo trial" was a Mr Barker. Of course, as everyone should know, dingoes don't bark.

You can't be too careful

As PostScript is well aware, a dropped negative, a missing word or misplaced comma can change a whole meaning of a sentence. It can even make the writer look stupid, heaven forbid!

Someone who discovered the pitfalls of writing a column was the Washington Post's Bill Gold as recorded in Paul Dickson's book The Official Rules.

In 1978 Gold wrote a column about howlers that got into print. If you are going to write such an article it is of course essential you don't make any bloopers yourself. Well aware of this Gold scrutinised the column many times as did the copy editor. In all, there were 20 checks. When the first edition of the paper came out Gold had a fit.

The three segments of his column making fun of writers who make mistakes had been pasted up in the wrong sequence making the column unintelligible. This phenomenon has since become known a Gold's Law.

Balder and dash

One of the sharpest tongues in journalism was HL Mencken who had a particular dislike for US President Warren Harding. In a column for the Baltimore Sun he wrote of Harding:

"He writes the worst English I have ever encountered. It reminds me of a string of wet sponges. It reminds me of tattered washing on the line. It reminds me of stale bean soup… of dogs barking through endless nights… It is rumble and bumble. It is flap and doodle. It is balder and dash." Wonderful stuff.

Not everyone appreciated Mencken, however. One reader responded: "Mencken, with his filthy hemorrhages, is so low down in the moral scale, so damnable dirty, so vile and degenerate that when his time comes to die it will take special dispensation from Heaven to get him into the bottommost pit in Hell."

That's what you call a rant.

Empty streets

I hope everyone has survived Songkran. For those who have remained in Bangkok, just enjoy the empty streets. If only it could be like that for the whole year. One also suspects many of those who headed out of town for a "long weekend" won't be returning for a while. Can't blame them. It's too hot to do anything. That's it for this week. Now, let's just hope I don't press the wrong key…

Contact PostScript via email at

Roger Crutchley

Bangkok Post columnist

A long time popular Bangkok Post columnist. In 1994 he won the Ayumongkol Literary Award. For many years he was Sports Editor at the Bangkok Post.

Email :

Do you like the content of this article?