TIL, bcc and other TLAs

email screenshot

I know that many of us grew up before email existed and we never had to worry about accidentally revealing other people’s email addresses, but I get very cross with people who forward and re-forward messages and don’t use the bcc field.

There was one message sent to me last year that particularly annoyed me. It came from a ‘friend’ who had previously laughed when I’d commented on his lack of professionalism. I think there were around a hundred people on the distribution list, including information contacts for ski-resorts and children’s schools, as well as a number of names I recognised.

The message – and the number of ‘reply to all’ follow ups – caught me at a bad moment and I wrote an irate reply to the sender, demanding to be removed from his contacts list.

He didn’t take me off the list, as is evidenced by the round robin message I got from him a few days ago. As the image shows, it was still one of those rabid, multi-colour forwards that do the rounds. But I was comforted to see that no one could harvest my email address from the recipients’ list.

The main reason I was so upset by the message that he sent last year was that among the the names I recognised – and one who replied to everyone on the list – was one that was very unwanted in my inbox.

The following poem, written eighteen months ago, was provoked (rather than inspired) by the third party concerned:

Today I Learned…

Today I learned that even a light blow
to the head can leave you reeling.

I have been jostled countless times
in rush-hour undergrounds and buses, elbowed
in the eyes and ears by strap-hangers and rammed
unceremoniously by oblivious backpackers.
On trains, dangling rucksack straps have mussed
my hair, and buckles missed my eyes by millimetres.

Today, though, I learned how a deliberate
cuff to the head, surreptitiously bestowed,
may inflict no physical injury or hurt, and yet
can leave a woman stunned.


(First published in SouthBank Poetry Magazine issue 10.)

Author: don't confuse the narrator

Exploring the boundary between writer and narrator through first person poetry, prose and opinion

2 thoughts on “TIL, bcc and other TLAs”

    1. Thank you!

      Finding the unwanted name in my inbox made me feel slightly unclean, like I did when we had mice and they crapped in the kitchen drawers – a violation of personal space.

      I had an article on e-mail etiquette published in a newsletter recently and got a lovely message from a reader in her eighties who wanted me to explain exactly how to use bcc: when people of her age are prepared to learn, I can’t understand why middle-aged friends are so proud of their ignorance and happy to give offense.


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