Generation in need of help with 'gajits'

THE following story is either encouraging or depressing, depending on your perspective.

THE following story is either encouraging or depressing, depending on your perspective.

Gadget Helpline, a Cambridge-based firm whose website - - does very much “what it says on the tin”, has struck on a novel way to boost its membership.

The company discovered that while 97% of 30 to 50 year olds, the primary uses of its helpline service, were able to spell the word “gadget” correctly, an astonishing 28% of 18 to 21 year olds were not.

Many of them tended to omit the “d”, some adopted an even more phonetic approach by replacing the middle “g” with a “j” and yet others substituted the “e” with an “i”.

Rather than gnash their teeth at falling education standards - which it what your columnist is doing as he writes this - the clever people at Gadget Helpline decided to register three domain names using the most common “variant” spellings.

The result, according to founder Crispin Thomas, has been a 5.21% increase in sign-ups to the site compared with the equivalent period last year.

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“Although search engines do have a default alert which asks online users if they meant to spell a word in a particular way we were finding a huge 'drop off' amongst the younger users , which we calculated could impact on our business annually to the tune of �150,000,” he adds.

So well done Gadget Helpline for adopting a lateral thinking approach which many other businesses might follow with success.

It still leaves me, as an enthusiast for the English language, quietly seething but, of course, to the 20-somethings who cannot spell “gadget”, I'm probably just a wizened old pedant.

And goodness knows how they spell that.

n It is good to see that “Bacon Curve” - the proposed rail link through the former Harris pigmeat products site in Ipswich - is likely to go ahead.

Construction of the spur would provide a further boost for rail freight by allowing trains to travel from Felixstowe to Bury St Edmunds, and onwards to the Midlands, without the need to reverse at Ipswich where the only junction at present is south-facing.

It does, however, make it even more puzzling that the Association of Train Operating Companies included the Felixstowe branch in its recent “wish list” of electrification schemes.

In a region which in the past has so often been overlooked in terms of rail investment - although things are improving - any potential scheme is to be welcomed.

However, with electrification of the entire east-west route between Felixstowe and the Midlands via Bury plainly not on the agenda, it is difficult to see how electrification of the Felixstowe branch on its own would be cost-effective, or even desirable.

If undertaken in isolation, it could only increase the pressure for freight to be routed along the main line towards London, to the likely detriment of passenger services - precisely the opposite of what the planned improvements to the cross-country route, including “Bacon Curve”, are intended to achieve.