"In the male," writes Stuart Cockerill, "the paunch is a sign of physical well-being indicating that the bearer is at the peak of his physical prowess. It announces that he has amassed the considerable material resources necessary to enjoy an excess of good food and drink, and that he will therefore be a good provider for any offspring that may ensue from his imminent liaison with the teenage barmaid."
Mollie Caird points out that Shakespeare's Falstaff plays are full of good paunch lines. And, R J Pickles adds, good paunch lines provoke belly laughs. He also remarks on how useful they are as rests for trays of drinks for people who want to get paunch drunk.
Anthropologically, Len Clarke mentions the steatopygous bushmen of Botswana who store fat in their bottoms "which can project alarmingly rearwards so you can even balance a tea tray on some of them, although you can't reach the tea." He recommends cultivating paunches to serve as a counterbalance to the Botswanan backside. He also sees paunches as a main support of the braces industry.
More ideas in brief: A paunch sign indicates "Pregnant Women Crossing" (John & Fiona Earle). If you have enough paunches sitting round a table, it will not need legs (Patsy Abraham). For playing hide and seek, or DIY Bouncy Castle, or fancy-dress outfit as back-to-front Quasimodo or Moby Dick (Matty Brown). Birth control, sleeping policemen, container for Home Brew (Norman Foster).
"Paunches?" snorts Geoffrey Langley. "A fat lot of use they are," while Alan Day says "My gut feeling about paunches is that they are a natural development that help big heads to keep their balance." Ciarn Ryan advises using a strategically placed tomato plant to disguise the paunch as a grow bag.
Finally, A J Brewer provides us with a taxonomy of paunches, with the primary subdivision into Dirigibles (airbags) and Reservoirs (beerguts). The former rely for their size on a large gas content and have been most prevalent since the baked bean price war. Reservoirs rely on a steady intake of beer.
Prizes to: Matty Brown, Len Clarke, and Norman Foster. Next week, uses for avocado stones. Meanwhile, we seek things to do with Stonehenge. Ideas to: Creativity, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Chambers Dictionary-Thesaurus rewards for the best.Reuse content