Here’s an email I received last month.
It comes from China. A manufacturer in China, I think…
There are many things I like about this. What I like best is that it touches me. It is of course ridiculous… Having spent years working at becoming leaders in the field of electronic products, I discover that we are actually the leaders in electronic fileds. Apparently we have a mystery gentleman here, who ‘seems to’ answer the phone as Jone. ‘Genetal’ is almost ‘genital’. And I am addressed by someone whose name is a certain fiction.
This is typical of emails I receive every day. It’s good fun, but if it hasn’t been written by a robot, then it’s been translated by one. And robots don’t care about me, you or anyone.
But still, I am touched… Of course my name’s missing because the machine doesn’t know who to address, but I don’t feel that. Instead, I’m struck by the intimacy of the opening – “Hi Dear”. It’s a note from my mother, my wife, someone who knows me well enough to not use my name.
I’m intrigued that he wants to contact me ‘directly’ – on the issue of ‘purchasing business’ – gosh, does he really want to purchase my business?
I’m moved by the odd phrasing: the authoritative ‘glad to learn ‘, the warmly polite ‘I’m not sure whether’, and the stilted ‘please kindly give me a reply’, followed by the ‘thanks a lot’ finish.
And I love that it comes from White, a name that is neither first nor last, and impossible to place – as deep, for me, as a character in a great novel.
Ridiculous. Sure, because clearly it’s a language train wreck, caused by the machine, which makes no sense for anyone to send – as it couldn’t possibly achieve any commercial objective. Still, when I compare it to some of the emails I get from humans, and to some of the ones I’ve sent, there’s no comparison: whatever the comedy of errors, this one is kinder; it’s certainly less full of rhetoric; and it comforts me – dare I say. I might even write back.
Let’s get started