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Lost socks and lost baggage

It’s true to say there are plenty of burning questions which many of us would like answered. If these queries are to be catalogued, this week’s column will, of necessity, contain far too many question marks. So be it.

I won’t be offering many answers to the questions but I reserve the right to comment on some of them. And I won’t be touching “Why are we here?” as it is far too big.

You’ll be familiar with some from my poultry category: Why did the chicken cross the road? Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Where do the nuggets come from on a chicken? Even though they cannot really be answered satisfactorily, they offer plenty of scope for humour so they are well worth keeping.

Naturally enough there’s a political category. Why do seemingly normal adults go into the parliamentary debating chamber and turn into spiteful, bickering children in a sandpit, flicking sand into each other’s eyes? Who knows?

As you would probably expect, I even have a language category of my own.

Why do people say nucular for nuclear, for example? Arks for ask? Mischievious for mischievous? Irregardless for regardless? Triathalon for triathlon? Pronounciation for pronunciation? Chomp at the bit for champ at the bit?

I even have a Missing L sub-category. Why do people call polka dots poker dots? Why do so many say vunerable for vulnerable?

The English language is a veritable mine of inconsistencies anyway. Why is one pronounced wun? Why is abbreviated quite a long word? Why do slim chance and fat chance mean the same thing?

But it’s in my big general/other/miscellaneous category that you might find more of the questions you yourself ask.

Where do missing socks go? My quite substantial sock and undie drawer generally contains at least two single socks though I don’t seem to have the same problem with undies. One suggestion for the missing socks is that they make up the rings around Saturn. Unfortunately, this theory has already been taken up by lost airline luggage.

I’m sure I’m not the only one who wants to know why a comment which begins with, “I’m not a racist but …” is invariably followed by a racist statement.

When French people say bad words, do they say, “Pardon my English”? Again, I don’t know.

In weather forecasting, when does partly cloudy become partly sunny? And when does
scattered cloud turn to cloudy?

This one I know is asked by many teachers in many schools. Why, oh why, do so many parents phone their children during class time? Do they believe that a classroom is a giant office where people man the phones to answer queries? I understand sending a text that the child can check after the lesson. But live phone calls?

But the one that set me on this path of questions happened today. As a little treat for some young people, I bought four bags of assorted toffees. In this assortment, there are various flavours and I tend to eat my favourites first [toffee de luxe, egg and cream, malt, coconut] but I leave mint and Harrogate until last.

After I had administered the toffees to their intended recipients, there was one bag left over so, naturally enough, I decided to enjoy some. I took one. It was mint. I took another. Mint. I promise this happened six times. On the seventh I drew Harrogate.

It turned out that more than half the toffees in this particular pack were mint. In second place, Harrogate.

So I would like to end with another question and it will show I’m here to probe the really big issues. Just how could this happen in a toffee assortment?

  • Wyn Drabble is a teacher of English, a writer, musician and public speaker.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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