Whither and Whence?

My late, lamented mother-in-law was a woman who skated lightly over the surface of her far from untroubled life. She raised her children on TV dinners and optimism and dished out home truths and advice to anyone within earshot. One of her favourites was, ‘don’t let little things bother you.’

Today I have utterly failed to follow her sensible rule. This all began with a blocked drain outside my apartment building. An inconvenience, but a fixable one. It was the response of the property management company that got me going. I’ll quote it in full.

Your issue will need to be logged on our website. Please log your issue in order to progress your issue. This ticket will be closed.

No, me neither.  Several hours later, with putrid gunk still bubbling up into my bathtub, I received a second message.

Unfortunately this issue has been logged on the incorrect platform. Please log any future issues through the following link. Hope you have a great day.

Those two brief emails sum up why I feel such a stranger in today’s world. Illiterate, impenetrable jargon, needlessly complicated bureaucracy and cloth-eared faux chumminess. I informed the sender that, oddly enough, I was not having a great day.

But wait. I’m not done. There’s a(nother) new book out about JFK and as I have had, in the past, a bit of skin in the Kennedy game, friends passed me a review to read. The title of the book is From Whence I Came: the Kennedy Legacy, Ireland and America. Have you spotted what has me steamed up?

‘Whence’ means ‘from where’ just as ‘whither’ means ‘to where’. The book’s title is therefore, effectively, From from where I came. Which, I think we can agree, makes no sense. I’m not a total ballbuster. I could forgive this (just about) in a high school student or in a regular joe nervously trying to elevate his language for some formal occasion, but from a long-established publishing house? It’s pitiful.

So that’s been my day. My mother-in-law would have prescribed a cup of tea and a Milky Way chocolate bar, but I am eyeing the whiskey bottle.


  1. Wendy Chappell on April 7, 2021 at 1:21 pm

    I’ve just been asked to fill in an 8 page “log in” form in preparation for an appointment at the dentist.
    I couldn’t fill in the space that requested my mobile phone number because I don’t have one.
    The ‘system’ wouldn’t allow me to progress until I had. No matter, it saved me having to fill in the next 7 pages.

  2. terri goddard on May 23, 2021 at 6:20 pm

    Please do ”enormity”. EVERYONE gets it wrong. Thank you for your books. Have just re-read ‘Future Homemakers’ with huge enjoyment.

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