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On second thoughts

WINSTON Churchill knew a thing or two:

about rallying nations, about upholding freedom and democracy, the importance of history, and how to tie a neat bow tie, amongst others. He also knew the value of thinking before you speak. "We are masters of the unsaid words," he said, "but slaves of the ones we let slip out."

It has long been a truism that things that have been said cannot be unsaid; but that need no longer be the case, at least when it comes to emails. For it seems you can actually "unsend" the blessed things.

Specifically, you can unsend a Gmail message; the US magazine Business Insider reports that there is a little-known tool buried in the "Gmail Labs" section of Google's service that, once activated, gives you the option of recalling your message within 30 seconds of pressing "send". It's an experimental feature, so it may not be around for long - unlike that email you wish you'd never sent.

Most of us have done it at some point. We may have hit "reply to all" instead of "reply"; sent a missive saying: "Yes I'm up for the Christmas do, as long as I'm not sitting next to that Gorgon from accounts with the breath like a badger's bahookey" only to realise that the Gorgon in question was halfway down the recipient list, and will be halfway up the stairs to your office, intent on a spirited debate, before you can reach for your jacket and sprint for the door (for Gorgons are not blessed with great powers of self-awareness).

This feature would be a blessing for those occasions when that electronic banana skin, the spellchecker, has caused you to fall flat on your face. No longer need you blush at a message in your sent box that reads: "I am sorry to have caused you this incontinence" when what you had intended was "inconvenience".

Almost as bad is the autofill function in the address field, where that witty riposte along the lines of "What moron came up with this dim-witted idea? Did you know we employ someone with the IQ of a whelk that was dropped on its head as a baby?" gets sent, not to Donna, your opposite number in the branch office, but Donald, your boss, who invariably in these cases is the unfortunately injured gastropod.

So, thank you Google. You have performed a great service to humanity. Now, any boffins out there willing to devote a bit more time and energy to coming up with more "undo" functions? After the mail that dropped through the letterbox this morning, I'd be very interested in an "unspend" option on the credit card.

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