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subtitles

I BLAME Gerry Rafferty.

And the bloke who played the sax solo on Baker Street who, on the night I'm pretty sure, wasn't Bob "Can I have a "P" please, Bob?" Holness. (Under 25s, ask your dad.) My hearing was never the same after being on the receiving end of a live and point-blank rendition of the 70s classic.

Men of a certain age find it difficult to accept that their hearing is not what it was. It's difficult for we silver foxes to look cool and impress women half our age by responding: "Half-past eight" when asked: "Do you work full-time?" Excuses that our difficulty following The Wire or The Sopranos is down to Baltimore or New Jersey patois tend to fall on deaf ears. That's when you begin to appreciate subtitles.

Subtitles evolved from intertitles, the text placed between scenes in silent movies. The retro-movie The Artist, reprised intertitles to great effect including the cracker, "Bang!" as a gun is fired. By the 1920s talkies and subtitles as we know them had emerged. In 1960s Aberdeen we were lured to French subtitled movies that offered the prospect, usually unfulfilled, of glimpses of the undraped female form.

Subtitling has moved on and those of us who don't hear so well are doubly blessed. We can enjoy our favourite programmes plus the errors arising from stenography and technology. The best are well known and include Labour's commitment to corporate leadership in the shape of "The Ed Miller Band". Subtitle users were first to learn of the General Synod's apparent retreat on women bishops as evidenced by the appointment of a "new arch b*tch of Canterbury ". Doubts about the value of overseas sabbaticals for medical personnel emerged when we read that "in surgeons" had attacked a Nato base in Afghanistan.

I was particularly interested to have it confirmed that Michael Gove had finally lost the plot when subtitles revealed 500 executions in English schools. Some of my former colleagues would have been disappointed to discover that weans were being excluded, not beheaded, for forgetting their pencils.

Groups who represent the hard of hearing have complained about the quality of subtitling. We need to be more sympathetic to those who carry out this demanding work. They are already being toasted to the limit.

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