Creativity: Categorising categories

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The Independent Culture
A WIDE variety of categorisation systems have been produced by readers in attempting to emulate the ancient Chinese bestiary mentioned by Jorge Luis Borges which we quoted two weeks ago.

Some entries strayed from the spirit of the original by introducing complex taxonomies with intimidating degrees of sub-categories. In the pursuit of simplicity, therefore, we are pleased to restrict our first selection to categorisation schemes for things beginning with the letter 'c' (which oddly enough nobody suggested as a category for anything).

M Underwood (clearly from personal experience) categorises children: owners of homework-eating dogs; flicking pellets of masticated paper; humming when teacher's back is turned; brainless; bookless; penless; sudden collective improvement of IQ as measured by GCSE; congenitally deranged; refusing to sit at particular desk because of rain dropping on exercise book; refusing to sit at desk in case ceiling collapses; behaviour on wet and windy Friday afternoons; thick as two short planks; not working to best of ability; adverse change in behaviour at full moon; in class comprising more than 50 per cent from one- parent families; with first name of Kylie; with parent who has changed name by deed poll to Madonna; sent outside to collect litter after singing silly words in assembly.

Tom Gaunt provides an all-encompassing list of clothes: very expensive; very cheap; sober; explosion in a paint factory; for teenagers and the homeless; only worn by fashion models; only worn by royalty; so we can all have a good laugh; 'do you think that style will ever come back?'; building workers' maximum exposure; very expensive label; pre-charity shop; ex- charity shop.

Ms C Hull points out that the real challenge of the Borges game is to get the categories in the right order. Here is her classification for cars: red; X-reg Ford Escorts; terrifyingly anchored to wobbly car transporters; belonging to Inspector Morse; containing a large, though odd, number of wellington boots; accustomed to travelling more slowly than a horse and cart; resembling a horse and cart in other respects; ambushed by traffic wardens; phallic symbols; small, leaky Renaults named Frank; filmed from inside during television drama; held together mostly by mud; blue; electric; apparently on its way to the maternity ward, but turning out to contain only a travelling salesman; with half-eaten Marmite sandwiches under the seats; starring on Crimewatch; bridal limousines; minicabs; temporarily operating as hen-houses.

Kevin Morgan produces a short but urgently needed classification for cliches (football): ambassadors of; Brian; financial (bung); flora/fauna (especially parrots); Motson; of the guv'nor; positional; tabloid pun; at the end of the day, at the final whistle, when it's all over bar the shouting; San Marinoisms.

Even shorter, if damper, was J & F Earle's system for classifying champagne - by shoe size.

We hope to return to this game on another occasion, so further lists will always be welcome, if only to test R Bannerman's categorisation scheme for categorisation schemes: that have never appeared in a Sunday newspaper; containing exactly 10 items; exhaustive; containing some items described by a single word and others that seem to ramble on for ages; thought by the compiler to be humorous; that from a long way off look like a totally different list; appearing in lists of lists; not covered by the above categories; not covered by the previous category either; that provide material for a logical paradox beginning with the words 'consider the list of all lists that do not include themselves'.

Next week, we shall report on things to do with Christmas. Meanwhile, we should like to hear of creative things one can do with a telephone. Suggestions, please, to: Creativity, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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