(And why you can’t tell a Scottish head teacher that a child has been naughty.)
Paul Roostercroft came about through a collision of two problems. As mentioned previously (We Will Hide Your Stuff), BT Business has a novel filtering system that hides e-mails that it regards as spam. No customer notification – they don’t even tell you that this filter exists unless you ask the right question – just hiding. In theory – the theory expounded by the helpful BT second-line support guy who gave me access to the hidden system – this junk mail filter uses a learning algorithm. That means that if you tell it that something isn’t spam, it is supposed to look at future mail for similar characteristics, and, on that basis, decide that the new mail isn’t spam either. It doesn’t work. No matter how many times I tell it that I want to receive the regular bulletins from the Ordnance Survey (I like maps), it decides they are junk, whereas it lets through plenty of advertising e-mails to which I’ve never subscribed.
Similarly with Paul’s e-mail. Paul is a playwright whose e-mail I wish to receive. BT wishes to prevent that. The only reason I can see for BT’s objection is that he has the venerable Anglo Saxon surname of Cockcroft. I assume that BT thinks that this name will offend my delicate sensibilities. No matter how many times I tell BTs system that I want his e-mails, they still get trapped in the hidden junk folder.
That brings me on to the other problem (Things You Can’t Say). If BT thinks Cockcroft will frighten the horses, I can expect the same treatment from other e-mail systems. How am I supposed to talk about Paul’s plays in our e-mail newsletter? My solution was euphemism – specifically borrowing the American euphemism for a male chicken.
I thought that the inclusion of Paul Roostercroft had been successful in rendering my e-mails filter-proof until I received a “bounce” message that stated:
“A mail from you to [the head teacher of a Scottish primary school] was stopped and quarantined because it contains objectionable content in line 40”
I thought that this might have been caused by “Puss-in-Boots”, but no. As far as I can see from scrutinising the e-mail, the naughty word in line 40 was, in fact, “naughty”.