This week’s guru

Offensive language without even trying

Guru does a lot of good work for charity and was upset to discover that an
HR chum in the voluntary sector had inadvertently offended members of the
public with an advert in the national media.

Her large charity used the phrase "nitty gritty". Several people
contacted her telling her it was a racist remark – apparently referring to the
rape of black women on slave ships.

She immediately started to research the meaning of the phrase. But when the
Internet and the library failed to provide an answer, she turned to Guru.

Unfortunately, Guru doesn’t know either. Can anyone prove the origins of the
phrase, and are there any other seemingly innocent phrases we should be avoiding?

Warm welcome for office visitors

Guru’s worst experience with a receptionist was in the House of Commons – I
rush to add that this is a story about incompetence rather than office party

The aforementioned receptionist managed to spread so much disinformation to
Guru and the politician he wished to meet, that both ended up waiting around
the corner from each other for the best part of an hour.

This is not an uncommon occurrence, however. According to research, UK
businesses are failing to show a proper level of courtesy to their clients and

One in five visitors are left sweltering in reception areas without air
conditioning and more than half are offered drinks only after they have been
shown to their meeting room.

A fifth of visitors find themselves in reception areas without access to a

As executives who attend only two meetings a week are calculated to spend
about 2.2 working days a year loitering in receptions, perhaps they can expect
better treatment.

Cool job, shame about the salary

If disciples are tired of wasting their lives in sweltering reception areas,
they might consider working in a rather different environment.

Guru was surprised to learn from a friend at the British Antarctic Survey
that it has received hundreds of applications for a steelworker post in the

The lucky applicant will have to endure 12-hour shifts for seven-day weeks
in temperatures as low as -55C. The salary for this tantalising four-month job
will be about £17,000. Guru would definitely not get out of bed for that one.

A chance to move with the fashion

Guru has found the answer to all his temperature regulation problems. An
intelligent shirt has been developed which rolls up its own sleeves when the
wearer gets too hot under the collar.

For those allergic to ironing – which includes Guru – the shirt could be
heaven-sent. A quick blast of a hairdryer is all that is needed to return it
crease-free to its original form.

The drawback is that you will have to be on City wages to buy one. It costs
Italian fashion house Corpo Nove £2,500 to make one.

The fabric is woven from fibres of an alloy called nitinol, interspersed
with nylon, and changes shape as the temperature goes up or down.

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