Down with Subs!

Down with subs was going to be a rant about the explosive growth of subscriptions which have spread like weeds throughout every aspect of modern life, but on digging a little further I realised the shortened word for subscriptions; subs, went even deeper.

One thing I love about the English language is its plethora of puns, innuendos, ambiguity and little tricks of pronunciation, punctuation and spelling. With total disdain for its parents; French and Latin, it invites friends and (subdued enemies) in from around the world to pillage and subvert their vocabularies to its own ends.

SUB, though is hardly a word, being a prefix. Its not a TLA and, isn’t even really an abbreviation. “Subs” can mean very different things: I did a bit of research and looked at the top 4 uses of “Subs” (in no particular order)

1 Submarines

DAS BOOT Klaus Wennemann (Chief Engineer Fritz Grade – Der Leitende-Der LI), JŸrgen Prochnow (Capt.-Lt. Henrich Lehmann-Willenbrock – Der Alte), Herbert Gršnemeyer (Lt. Werner – Correspondent)

Down with subs.

Das Boot? Hunt for Red October? Smelly bearded men in polo necked sweaters? Tom Clancy novels?
Originally an underwater boat (U-boat) or submersible. A submarine; H.L Hunley was the first used (successfully) to sink an enemy ship during the American Civil War. The crew unfortunately failed to anticipate the future development of depth charges and blew themselves up along with their target.
The notoriety and hatred of German U-boats in WWII from the British side belies (ideology aside) the incredible bravery of the German U boat crews who suffered an appaling 70% casualty rate.

A few years back I was able to look around a Russian Foxtrot class nuclear submarine in Folkestone harbour and was desperate to get out after only 20 minutes.Tied up to the harbour and with the hatches open (and nobody tying to kill me!), it seemed unbelieveable that a crew of 70 could live in something the size of a London council flat for months at a time, underwater! Apparently my feelings not were uncommon amongst conscripts to the Soviet navy which gave conscripts the unique option to opt out of submarine service.

The prefix sub is from Latin and basically means Under, or lower, beneath or inferior to: Rulers have subjects, Army officers have subordinates, contractors have subcontractors, commitees have subcommitees, and so on. It can be a sneaky word as in subterfuge, subversive or subliminal. It can be dark and scary as in subterranean, submarine or subhuman. It can imply surrender or abatement as in submit or subside. The level below which survival is unlikely is the subsistence level.

2 Subway Sandwich

A roll or baguette stuffed with any number of implausible ingredients has come to be called a sub. Imported form the US this term refers to its submarine like shape
see above.

Subway sub sandwich

In the UK a subway generally refers to a dingy, unsavoury tunnel under a busy road. Inhabited by lurking ne’er-do-wells, pungent smells and gloomy graffiti. The subterranean railway system is simply “The underground” or The “Tube”

Subs: 2 Substitutes

“I’m a substitute for another guy
I look pretty tall but my heels are high
The simple things you see are all complicated
Look pretty young, but I’m just back dated, yeah…

Substitute -The Who

A sports player nominated as eligible to replace another after a match has begun.

substitutes bench

“In team sports, substitution (or interchange) is replacing one player with another during a match. Substitute players that are not in the starting lineup (also known as bench playersbackupsinterchange, or reserves) reside on the bench and are available to substitute for a starter. Later in the match, that substitute may be substituted for by another substitute or by a starter who is currently on the bench.” Wikipedia

Bit lazy with this one – sport isn’t really my thing!

Subs 3 Submissive

Dominance and submission is a set of behaviours, customs, and rituals involving the submission of one person to another in an erotic episode or lifestyle. It is a subset of BDSM. This form of sexual contact and pleasure has been shown to please a minority of people

Go on, look up your own links!

Subs 4 Subscriptions

Down with subs.

Which gets me back to the original subject.

It used to be that you paid a subscription to a club, or society, possibly to a magazine, (thus avoiding the tedious monthly walk to the newsagent). Club subcriptions were usually annual and preceded by polite reminders followed by less polite ones.


Licence to bill

Once upon a time there were two BBC TV channels for which you paid a annual licence fee which was compulsory. Later this was expanded to three channels and much later to four with the addition of commercial stations, which supposedly paid for themselves through irritating adverts, although you still had to buy a licence.

TV licence vans cruised the streets and with sophisticated Radar equipment could pinpoint the exact location of any TV set being watched without a licence.

In reality There very few of these vans were actually functional; The equipment was very expensive and very heavy, being RAF surplus left over from the 1950s. I have it on good authority that the vast majority of these vans were decoys, with simply a bloke sitting in the back turning a bent coat hanger through a hole in the roof of the van.

BBC Test Card

Later came Satellite TV and the the fuse under the subscription powderkeg was lit on the back of the British (mainly males’) obsession with football.

Fast forward to the Internet and suddenly you had Internet providers, Domain name registrars, hosting, email, downloadable music, film and then Mobile phones and then smart phones that gave you access to all that had come before. All this was slowly added to the ever increasing pile of what were still rather quaintly called “bills”. The monthly cost of each was “only £xx! – that’s only xxp a day”

Conscription to subscription

In Britain privatisation of everything that wasn’t nailed down led to a screwing down of the public with incomprehensible contracts. These contracts were formulated to make to Dr Faustus signing his soul to the devil or Beau Geste joining the French foreign legion seem as simple as signing an X in box on election day in comparison. Twelve month contracts, eighteen month contracts, 24 month contracts…. many dangled the carrot of “First three months free!” whilst concealing the big stick of early cancellation charges.

No more buying a computer program or game, loading it into your PC and using it for free until the next Windows operation system made it obsolete – subscription! Games have seasonal passes, Apps and programs and plugins have monthly fees. We have Netflix, Amazon Prime, NowTV and a countless horde of other streaming channels – all monthly subscriptions. We still have to pay a TV licence for those first two BBC channels, although this can now be done …. monthly.

The pandemic has driven us all much further online than we have ever been before, much to the delight of hackers and scammers. Be not afraid! for only £xx a month (xxp a day!!) you can protect your PC, games console, mobile phone, domestic appliances and even life! (you will still have to die, but at least someone else will then be able afford to pay your subscriptions until the end of the contract)

Me? I’m off to join the French foreign legion….

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