Zeus bemoans the state of a language under attack by acronyms.
‘Why would anyone want a glass ceiling?’ Hermes tossed the question as lightly as a birthday balloon into an unlikely moment of silence. Usually, breakfast – the only meal which, at Hera’s insistence, the Olympian gods all still shared – was a clamour of several voices vying to be heard against a background of inane announcements on GBC or a Skye TV re-run of one of the chat shows to which Aphrodite ad become addicted.
‘To look at the stars of the nightly heavens,’ suggested Artemis. ‘Or to watch cloud shadows scud across a sunlit sky,’ added Apollo.
‘No, this is at a local employer’s. One of the women in the Post Office parcels section said there was a glass ceiling.’
‘That’s got nothing to do with ceilings, Dumbo,’ snorted Artemis. ‘It’s a gender gap thing. It means that no matter how talented a female employee is, she will never rise above a certain level of pay or responsibility. Which organisation is it… that’s something the Sisterhood should look into…’
Since giving up hunting and exchanging her bow and golden arrows for a cell-phone and iPad, Artemis had embraced feminism with as great an ardour as she ever had devoted to the chase. She had adopted the term ‘Sisterhood’ to embrace her own little coterie of like-minded women who on most mornings gathered for coffee at Sacarello’s to put the world to rights, condemn the latest reports of gender inequality, and gossip about any of their members who weren’t present.
Hermes couldn’t remember which it was. Apollo thought it probably applied to several of the Rock’s employers. After all, along with Spain and Turkey, Gibraltar was said to be southern Europe’s last outpost of male chauvinism.
‘Well, it certainly isn’t the Commission. That’s got more women in top jobs than you would find in a nunnery – it’s called “positive discrimination”,’ said Hebe.
‘What’s the Commission?’ wondered Hephaestus who had just come in after another night shift with the Gibraltar Fire Service.
‘The financial services regulator – everyone knows it as the GFSC,’ his sister replied.
‘Which sea is the Effuss?’ asked Zeus, using a corner of the tablecloth to wipe a last smudge of Roses lime marmalade from his beard.
Was he being deliberately obtuse or had he really not understood that the letters FSC had nothing to do with the sea or anything maritime, Hera wondered. Millennia of family arguments had taught her that the Father of the Gods was adept at deliberately misunderstanding the simplest of facts merely to be irksomely provocative.
‘It’s got nothing to do with the sea – any sea,’ said Hebe. ‘FSC is an acronym. Capital letters which stand for Financial Services Commission. They’re looking for people with financial skills…’
‘But they won’t want anything to do with wine investments,’ Dionysus interrupted. ‘They’re there precisely to stop those sort of dodgy deals. The only wines they’re likely to be interested in are a good rioja with their fillet steaks or a Pouilly Fuisse with the strawberries and cream.’
Hebe bridled. From the moment she had been employed by SG Hambros to advise the bank’s wealthy clients on vinous investments, her bibulous brother, (who’s only interest in the contents of a bottle – any bottle – was its alcohol count) had mocked her skills as a sommelier. It was envy. She knew it. For in the 13 months since the Olympian gods had settled on the Rock, Dionysus had been fired from every bar and restaurant in Gibraltar… for drunkenness.
Her own redundancy had come as a shock. Even though, post-Brexit, French, German, and Spanish wines might no longer be available for UK investment, there remained a vast selection of ‘New World’ wines, she had told her CEO. But to no avail… and now she was job hunting.
‘What’s that about the sea?’ Poseidon had caught the tail-end of his father’s remarks and looked up from the online version of the Chronicle on his water-resistant smart phone.
‘Nothing,’ said Hebe. ‘It’s about an acronym.’
‘Can’t stand the blasted things. A pathway to confusion. They should be banned,’ grumbled Zeus. ‘Only a Roman, some idiot worshipper of Jupiter could have invented the damn things. SPQR – that was the first one. Why not just say “Senātus Populusque Rōmānus” or just plain Roman Senate and People? I ask you… No Athenian, Theban, or even the most slovenly of Spartans would belittle the Greek language by condensing it to an alpha or an omicron. Acronyms. Ugh…’
‘You had better get used to them, Pop,’ said Athena, pleased at the mottled red that suffused her father’s face at her use of the American patronymic. ‘There are tens of thousands of them already in use across the Western world and more are added every day. Acronyms are a very useful shorthand. Why do you think the English write “RSVP” at the end of an invitation?’
‘Responsible silver plate? That’s got nothing to do with shorthand,’ Zeus retorted. ‘That’s because the average Briton can’t speak French, let alone spell it.’
‘Repondez s’il vous plait,’ Athena corrected.
‘I knew that,’ Zeus fibbed, ‘but half the problem is that one acronym can mean several different things. Take “PR” for instance, It can mean “public relations” – a euphemism for work for drop-out journalists; or it can mean “proportional representation” a so-called democratic system for elections that doesn’t work. It can even stand for Puerto Rico.
‘And then there’s “M.I.L.F.”…’ Zeus’ argument could have continued in this vein, but no-one was listening.
Hebe had left the table in a huff, and for the fifth time was attempting to come to grips with the convolutions of the re-jigged FSC website in preparation for her job interview that afternoon. Aphrodite was glued to the 50-inch plasma TV screen. Dionysus was searching for his silver hip-flask which should still contain enough calvados for a pick-me-up. Poseidon was sharpening the tips of his trident. And Hera had begun to clear the breakfast mess.
Just another day in the life of the gods.