Poor punctuation is the sign of a sex pest, according to a recent article in the Wall Street Journal Well, that's not exactly what it said, but we're getting pedantic about punctuation here, not content. We're scrutinising style, not substance.
Besides, I have a case study that proves it's true. I once dated a man whose wanton use of the space bar and aversion to full stops should have automatically alerted the pervert police. I thought the government was meant to monitor us online? They need to shift some focus to the dating sites.
I'll call our case study Clifton. We met on a site I've since seen described as, "where people go to get married." No one rang my wedding bells, but I agreed to lunch with Cliffo on the Sunday. I specified a pub and he booked a bistro. To appreciate how I felt about this, say bistro aloud, with an emphasis on the b, spraying spittle. Try it in the manner of Rik Mayall being a complete b'stard. Yes - that's how I felt about it not being a proper pub.
We'd barely begun the main when Cliffo asked me if my breasts were real. My assets are as authentic as a BOGOF Ming vase in a Bangkok night market. My silicone is not a secret. But it was somewhat disconcerting to be asked about my breasts by a man I'd never met before. Our conversation, in its embryonic stages, should have stayed within the safe sac of small talk. We have weather for a reason. He might as well have asked about the state of my vagina: "Warm and wet? Looking good for the weekend?" No. It's chilly and getting drier.
Clifton's predilection for clearing his throat, suggested a diet of charred Trump comb-over and a working week in a bush fire. I put aside my suspicion that the only women he spoke to were Cam Girls, and focused on the plague of frogs in his throat. Could I bear it? And why wouldn't he take off his coat? His scarf, surely, was a red rag to gravy. If I was gravy, I'd be all over that grey cashmere scarf like Brian Harvey at Spud U Like.
Cliftster told me all men will shag other men if they can't find a woman. "They'd rather sleep with an attractive woman, but if they can't get one, they'll go home with a man." All men? "Yes." So what about gay men, surely a woman wouldn't be their first choice? "All men would rather sleep with a woman. Sleeping with other men is just what men do when they can't get a woman." Right. And what about you? Do you sleep with men? "Oh no - I don't. Other men do." But you said all men? "Yeah, other men do, I don't." Right.
After I declined to see Cliffo again, he suggested, "catching up for a coffee some evening." A few days later, without a date in the diary, Cliffo tried again, telling me, "this thought might make you laugh -" it didn't, but I'll let him continue: "I had a flash back of outside the bar last sunday [sic] and I vaguely remember feeling your boobs but unfortunately with the 8 pints of beer my long term memory seem [sic] to have filtered most of it !! [sic] So I actually don't remember the one and only time I've felt fake boobs and what they actually feel like" [sic]
Cliffo, I suspect, has never felt boobs, fake or otherwise. If you handed him a ball of wet socks and told him he was touching tits, he'd cum all over them. But let's move on. Deciding I was too busy laughing at his "funny thought" to get back to him, Cliffo messaged again. "Fancy some sex for fun ?" [sic] he asked - because maybe I did and I just hadn't mentioned it! Assuming the best, Cliffo went on to tell me what I could look forward to:
"I'd lift your dress, open your legs and kiss the [excessive use of space bar] insides of your thighs - then pull your knickers down, I'd open your legs wider still and lick your soaking wet pussy. When you were ready to cum I'd slide my hard cock inside you and fuck you hard."
I didn't like this scenario. What's with opening my legs, then opening them wider still? Seriously mate, if I wanted you between my legs, I'd open them myself. And what's with licking me 'til I'm ready to cum, then stopping? Are you some sort of wanker, Cliffers? Are you trying to put me off you even more than you've done already with your "funny thoughts"? That's like telling me, "We'll go to Nobu, then just as your wagu steak arrives, I'll smash the table in." Thanks mate - but I'll get a takeaway. By myself.
My misery might have been avoided if I'd paid closer attention to Cliffer's initial messages. The Wall Street Journal quotes Jason Tan of Sift Science saying certain typos red-flag a fraudster. The abbreviated "ur," the misspelled "happend," a dislike of capital letters, all indicate the writer is more likely to commit fraud, says Tan.
What does a wilful misuse of the space bar indicate? What does Cliffer's aversion to full stops suggest? I reach out to Tan to find out, but in the absence of a response (he's probably paranoid about writing anything now) I conclude that Cliffo's typos serve as a glaring great pervert alert.
The Wall Street Journal quotes John McWhorter, a linguistics professor at Columbia Uni, as saying: "Grammar snobbery is one of the last permissible prejudices." Quite right - misuse of punctuation should be highlighted in the safety section of dating sites. Do not date these men: You'll wind up more disappointed than Kerry Katona at a press event that turns out to be a flashmob of ironing boards.