Silly Questions: A cuff round the ear

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'BIOLOGY lesson strangely excites a 'U' don (3,9),' writes Mark Walmsley in reply to our request for a question to which 'sex education' is the answer. R J Pickles offers: 'How do gooseberry bushes conceive?' Rather than pursue this risque topic, we move on to adolescent girls and their jumper cuffs.

'If my daughter is typical,' says Mrs B Atkins Smart, 'the reasons they pull their jumper cuffs over their hands are: a) to hide their chewed fingernails; b) to convince their mamas that last year's favourite jumper still fits.'

Mr Pickles, however, sees the habit as an exercise for strengthening their index fingers 'which, like prehensile claws, are usually the digits protruding. In their maturity they will be used for picking, pointing, prodding, probing and poking, particularly when searching for the fare in their purses immediately after boarding buses they catch every day.'

The most scientific explanation comes from Howard Pell: 'This is a consequence of hormonal changes during puberty, which cause, among other things, sweaty palms. A pullover's combined elasticity and absorbancy makes its cuffs ideal mops for sweaty hands, whilst the subsequent chewing of the cuffs provides a natural means of restoring lost body salts.

'Adolescent boys also seek to engage in cuff-pulling, but here the pullover's limited elasticity is a problem, since adolescent boys are usually more concerned to stretch the front of the pullover down over the tops of their trousers (again for reasons associated with hormonal changes). Few pullovers stretch both ways and in fact pullover-front pulling frequently results in bigger boys having the cuffs up around their elbows.'

Warming to his theme, Mr Pell also blames adolescent sweatiness for the brushes inside letter-boxes which, he claims, absorb the sweat from adolescent postmen, this preventing corrosion and attacks of verdigris in brass letter- boxes.

Michelle Varney blames letter-box brushes on political correctness: 'They are so the dirty postcards from your less enlightened friends can be cleaned up before they reach the breakfast table.'

This week's questions: A Lovell asks: 'Why do slow- dancers always rotate clockwise (when viewed from above)? If (as I suspect) it is due to the rotation of the earth, do antipodean smoochers turn anticlockwise and does this explain why the equator is not renowned as a place to slow- dance?'

Why can't you buy a video that automatically records programmes you don't like while you are in, then plays them back when you go out? How do lyricists think of lines like 'A wop bop a loo bop a lop bam boom?' (both N James). And finally, on a similar theme, B O'Riley asks: 'In the song 'Is you is or is you ain't my baby', which 'is' is the primary and which the auxiliary verb? How, indeed, does the verb 'to be be' conjugate? And should not a later line be: 'Guess my flame in your heart did done gone out', rather than simply 'done gone out'?'