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March 21, 2005updated 19 Aug 2016 10:11am

Asking Jeeves About Wife’s Affair

I just Asked Jeeves the question: "Has Ask Jeeves Been Sold?", and bizarrely, the online butler did not come back with a definitive 'yes' or 'no'. I asked because hours earlier it was announced that the company has indeed been sold, for

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I just Asked Jeeves the question: "Has Ask Jeeves Been Sold?", and bizarrely, the online butler did not come back with a definitive ‘yes’ or ‘no’. I asked because hours earlier it was announced that the company has indeed been sold, for around $1.85bn, to an investment-holding-company-type-thing called IAC/InterActiveCorp.

I don’t mind Ask Jeeves, but I do find that it’s only really valuable if you are asking a pretty straightforward question, like "How high is Everest?" (29,035 metres, apparently), or "How deep is the Pacific?" (11,033 metres at its deepest).

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Ask anything a bit more tricky, like "My wife recently started having a secret affair with a librarian – which I only discovered after hiring a rather expensive private detective because I’d noticed my wife Kathryn (sorry, I forgot to give you her name earlier; it’s Kathryn with a ‘y’ and a ‘k’, but no ‘e’) started to take four or five hours to choose a library book, and that’s in the middle of the night, too, not during library opening hours – and I just wondered whether it would be best to confront her with the truth, or just buy my books from Amazon instead of having to go into the library and ponder whether Kathryn is sleeping with the man in the corduroy trousers, or even the woman in the mauve twinset (I mean really, who wears mauve these days?)", and the response is far less impressive.

When I put that question to Ask Jeeves, one of its top suggested links was to a short story by Hanif Kureishi, called Strangers When We Meet. I haven’t read it myself, but Ask Jeeves seemed to think it would help because it is about some other people who have affairs. As you see, Jeeves still hasn’t answered my question, and anyway, suggesting some reading material is hardly very considerate when he knows perfectly well that libraries are no longer on my list of favourite places.

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