Interview blues. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice
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“My CV’s probably under-exaggerated”: The Apprentice blog series 10, episode 11

The final five candidates are interviewed by people even more obnoxious than they are.

WARNING: This blog is for people watching The Apprentice. Contains spoilers!

Read the episode 10 blog here.
 

We’ve reached the interviews stage, and all our favourite interrogators – plus a new angry face – have been laid on by Lord Sugar to pretend they’re qualified to level cruel put-downs and personal attacks at the perpetually embattled final five candidates.

There’s good old Bald Man Frothing with Malice (special skill: looking things up on Companies House using his computer), the trusty Haughty Media MD with Glass Orb (special skill: looking simultaneously smug and slightly concerned about her desk ornaments), old favourite That Guy Who Owns Shortlist (special skill: “reading between the lines”, apparently. Probably not of Shortlist though), and surprise newcomer Stunned Former Apprentice Winner (special skill: being allowed on telly during his lunchbreak).

A double-edged Claude. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

But before they face this high-altitude, low-quality recruitment process at the top of the Leadenhall Building (that’s the Cheesegrater to Londoners. And giants.), the contestants must put the finishing touches on their business plans.

This process involves each of the final five sitting separately looking perplexed over a lap of bumpf in a variety of showrooms in their Highgate mansion. Here’s Daniel, squelching over some projections beside a tropical plant and ostentatiously posing fruitbowl. There’s Roisin, her documents illuminated by a willowy statement lamp. Solomon pores over a page of figures on some ergonomic garden furniture. It’s a bit like a Habitat advert specifically targeting young professionals on the brink of redundancy.

The resident cameraman roams the house, asking each candidate how they feel about making it this far. In an emotional clip, Roisin weeps openly to camera about leaving her accountancy job “to do this”. It’s difficult to tell if she’s crying over how much the process means to her, or the stability, money and dignity she threw away by resigning.

Eventually, the five of them – Roisin, Solomon, Daniel, Mark and Bianca – gather in the twinkling Cheesegrater for a pep talk from his Sugary Lordship. Gesturing to their surroundings, he tells them, “like you, it’s not open for business yet,” in a rather obscene-sounding simile.

Roisin won't be choosing Pret's Classic Tomato soup for lunch. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

The candidates are told they will receive a grilling from Sugar's pack of aggressive advisers. “Sounds easy – NOT,” says Daniel, evoking the Nineties, as he swaggers off to his first interview. “Daniel’s the best to go first,” smirks Mark. “If you go after him, you look good, don’t you?”

What proceeds is a succession of people saying tragic things about CVs in uncomfortably-lit rooms. “I look at CVs day-in, day-out,” says Ricky Martin, a former Apprentice winner who sounds like he’s really living the business partnership dream. Living la vida loca, even. “My CV’s probably under-exaggerated,” says Daniel, modestly, having written that he won the Salesperson of the Year award – which he didn't. Sorry, I mean, "NOT".

Daniel won Salesperson of the Year. Not. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

Roisin doesn’t do any better in her interview with the Shortlist boss, as she is faced with a pot noodle of shattered dreams on his desk and discovers her “unique” healthy ready meals are already on the market. Or perhaps she’s just really distressed because she’s wearing all white – a bad time to negotiate a noodle dish.

“Ideas generation” advocate Solomon is asked to read out some ideas from his phone. He must have been Googling bed-and-breakfasts, because he suggests both a delivery service of food to one’s house for breakfast in bed, and a place where you can pay to go to sleep.

But his toughest challenge is when he ascends to the sky-high office of infamous long-eared Claude Littner, whose already notably long ears extend even further in fury at the 23-year-old’s eight-page business plan. “It’s a bloody disgrace,” spits Claude, as Solomon crumples like a puppy being kicked. “You can leave. Pictures of sail boats! Pictures of sail boats!” he yells, like a crazed ClipArt user. “You’re taking the piss. Please leave.”

Bianca's lament. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

And if emotions are running high in Claude’s cloud box, they’re even higher when Bianca faces Ricky Martin. It seems to be an executive decision going forward ­– probably via a group Outlook conversation in which the interviewers reach out to one another – that Bianca is “hiding behind a mask” and repressing her personality.

This consensus leads to her on-screen psychological disintegration: “Oh my God, am I hiding something? I don’t know.” She then weeps to Martin as they debate what should be included in the price of paying for a recruitment consultant. A sad lone piano tinkles in the background as she wipes her eyes, and it all goes a bit X Factor.

“I’m more confident than ever,” says Mark, who doesn’t seem to receive as comprehensive a rollicking as his competitors.

Back in the boardroom, Lord Sugar’s advisers decide Solomon is a bit immature, Roisin and Daniel’s business plans are fundamentally flawed, and that there’s a lucrative place in the market for Bianca’s idea for different skin tones of hosiery (“I did some research, which I found quite pleasant,” grunts Claude, his ears lengthening lasciviously).

Daniel does his final signature clench-pout, before he’s booted off because no one wants to use his weird online wedding planning service; Solomon goes because his “fulfilment” business doesn’t fulfil Sugar’s criteria; Roisin is fired because she doesn’t seem to understand the basic fact that, “to fight for the space in the chillers in the supermarket, it’s like golddust, like Mayfair real estate”. Think of that next time you reach wearily for a treat from Dr Oetker.

Mark and Bianca survive for the final, as the dawn rises in gold-tinged hope over the Shard: God smiling upon us in the knowledge that there’s only one bloody episode left.

Two's company. Photo: BBC/The Apprentice

 

Candidates to watch

Mark

Because he’s in the final.

Bianca

Because she’s in the final.

All the rest

Because they come back for the final.
 

I'll be blogging The Apprentice each week. Click here to follow it. Read my blog on the previous episode here. The show will air weekly on Wednesday evenings at 9pm on BBC One. Check back for the next instalment every Thursday morning.

Anoosh Chakelian is senior writer at the New Statesman.

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That's the Way It Crumbles: Matthew Engel explores Americanisms

The author is especially vexed by the barbarous locution “wake-up call”.

Perhaps, with the ascension of Ruth Davidson to political superstardom and the glorification of Sir Walter Scott on current Scottish banknotes (south of the border, we’re going for Jane Austen on our tenners), we will all revisit Ivanhoe. The story, you’ll recall, is set during the reign of the Lionheart King, who is away on crusade business, killing Muslims by the thousand. Like the good Christian monarch he is.

Scott’s narrative has a prelude. A Saxon swineherd, Gurth, is sitting on a decayed Druid stone as his pigs root in the dirt. Along comes his mate Wamba, a jester. The two serfs chat. How is it, Gurth wonders, that “swine” when it reaches the high tables of their masters is “pork” (Fr porc); cow ­becomes “beef” (Fr boeuf); and sheep turns into “mutton” (Fr mouton)?

The reason, Wamba explains (no fool he), is 1066. Four generations have passed but the Normans are still running things. They have normanised English – and they eat high on the hog. How did pig become pork? In the same way as “minced beef sandwich”, in my day, became Big Mac.

Ivanhoe should be the Brexiteers’ bible. Its message is that throwing off the Norman Yoke is necessary before Britain can be Britain again. What’s the difference between Normandy and Europa? Just 900 or so years. Scott makes a larger point. Common language, closely examined, reflects where real power lies. More than that, it enforces that power – softly but subversively, often in ways we don’t notice. That’s what makes it dangerous.

We’ve thrown off the Norman Yoke – but it remains, faintly throbbing, in the archaeology of our language. Why do we call the place “parliament” and not “speak house”? Is Gordon Ramsay a chef or a cook? Do the words evoke different kinds of society?

Matthew Engel is a journalist at the end of four decades of deadline-driven, high-quality writing. He is now at that stage of life when one thinks about it all – in his case, the millions of words he has tapped out. What historical meaning was ingrained in those words? It is, he concludes, not the European Union but America that we should be fearful of.

The first half of his book is a survey of the historical ebbs and flows of national dialect across the Atlantic. In the 18th century the linguistic tide flowed west from the UK to the US. When the 20th century turned, it was the age of “Mid-Atlantic”. Now, it’s all one-way. We talk, think and probably dream American. It’s semantic colonialism. The blurb (manifestly written by Engel himself) makes the point succinctly:

Are we tired of being asked to take the elevator, sick of being offered fries and told about the latest movie? Yeah. Have we noticed the sly interpolation of Americanisms into our everyday speech? It’s a no-brainer.

One of the charms of this book is Engel hunting down his prey like a linguistic witchfinder-general. He is especially vexed by the barbarous locution “wake-up call”. The first use he finds is “in an ice hockey ­report in the New York Times in 1975”. Horribile dictu. “By the first four years of the 21st century the Guardian was reporting wake-up calls – some real, most metaphorical – two and a half times a week.” The Guardian! What more proof were needed that there is something rotten in the state of the English language?

Another bee in Engel’s bonnet is the compound “from the get-go”. He tracks it down to a 1958 Hank Mobley tune called “Git-Go Blues”. And where is that putrid locution now? Michael Gove, then Britain’s education secretary, used it in a 2010 interview on Radio 4. Unclean! Unclean!

Having completed his historical survey, and compiled a voluminous dictionary of Americanisms, Engel gets down to business. What does (Americanism alert!) the takeover mean?

Is it simply that we are scooping up loan words, as the English language always has done? We love Babel; revel in it. Ponder a recent headline in the online Independent: “Has Scandi-noir become too hygge for its own good?” The wonderful thing about the English language is its sponge-like ability to absorb, use and discard un-English verbiage and still be vitally itself. Or is this Americanisation what Orwell describes in Nineteen Eighty-Four as “Newspeak”? Totalitarian powers routinely control independent thinking – and resistance to their power – by programmatic impoverishment of language. Engel has come round to believing the latter. Big time.

In its last pages, the book gets mad as hell on the subject. Forget Europe. Britain, and young Britain in particular, has handed over “control of its culture and vocabulary to Washington, New York and Los Angeles”. It is, Engel argues, “self-imposed serfdom”:

A country that outsources the development of its language – the language it developed over hundreds of years – is a nation that has lost the will to live.

Britain in 2017AD is, to borrow an Americanism, “brainwashed”, and doesn’t know it or, worse, doesn’t care. How was American slavery enforced? Not only with the whip and chain but by taking away the slaves’ native language. It works.

Recall the front-page headlines of 9 June. “Theresa on ropes”, shouted the Daily Mail. She was “hung out to dry”, said the London Evening Standard. “Stormin’ Corbyn”, proclaimed the Metro. These are manifest Americanisms, from the metaphor “hanging out to dry” to the use of “Stormin’” – the epithet applied to Norman Schwarzkopf, the victorious US Gulf War commander of Operation Desert Storm.

These headlines on Theresa May’s failure fit the bill. Her campaign was framed, by others, as American presidential, not English prime ministerial. But the lady herself is pure Jane Austen: a vicar’s daughter whose naughtiest act was to run through a field of wheat. She simply couldn’t do the “hail to the chief” stuff. Boris, the bookies’ odds predict, will show her how that presidential “stuff” should be “strut”. He was, of course, born American.

Engel’s book, short-tempered but consistently witty, does a useful thing. It makes us listen to what is coming out of our mouths and think seriously about it. Have a nice day.

John Sutherland’s “How Good Is Your Grammar?” is published by Short Books

That’s the Way It Crumbles: the American Conquest of English
Matthew Engel
Profile Books, 279pp, £16.99

This article first appeared in the 22 June 2017 issue of the New Statesman, The zombie PM

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