Silly Questions: Euphonious partnerships

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The Independent Culture
'ILL-CONCEIVED and over- urgent in ignorance' is how D Mirfin describes N James's question about male names taking preference over female, in pairs other than Bonnie & Clyde and Torvill & Dean.

Several others also wrote in to point out that Hero & Leander were heroine and hero respectively. We knew that, of course, but assumed Mr James was making a subtly satirical point about female names coming first only if they sounded like chaps.

Anyway, Mr Mirfin cites Venus & Adonis, Elizabeth & Essex, Victoria & Albert and Mary & Joseph to support his view that first place goes to 'the person with greater social, empathic or reverential eminence'.

Nicholas Gough believes euphony to have a lot to do with it, and suggests that ice-dancing females may deliberately choose partners to produce nice-sounding name pairs. 'Eve & Adam and Juliet & Romeo don't have quite the same impact.'

That view is supported by Ms B O'Riley, who cites the Italian comedy-writing team Pir & Ello who, she claims, began their career as Ello & Pir, writing such flops as 'Two Characters in Search of an Order' before they reversed direction and attained lasting fame, as well as the courage to include four more characters.

Geoffrey Langley, citing Anna & the King of Siam, and Steph & Paul, says the reason should be plain enough to students of Adlerian compensation.

Where do brass monkeys go in the summer? Len Clarke believes they make a foursome at bridge with the three wise monkeys, or sing alto in the Westminster Abbey choir. R J Pickles says they go back to the foundry for spare-part remoulding.

A T Mason, however, says the whole question was misconceived. 'Since there is no recorded case of a brass monkey suffering the injury to which the species is reputedly at risk in cold weather, it is obvious that they avoid exposure to a winter climate. The question that should exercise us is: where do brass monkeys go in the winter?

Which brings us to gates, and why they are always in the muddiest part of the field, a subject to which John Lamb has devoted a great deal of research.

He explains: 'The average gate weighs at least three times more than the fence to which it is attached. This creates greater pressure on the ground between the gate posts than on the areas beneath the fencing. Over time, this leads to a depression below and around the gate.

'The depression is further accentuated by the gravitational flow of rainwater which settles to form what experts refer to as a 'puddle'. The 'puddle' softens the area below it, creating further depression. Simultanously, worms are drawn to the area by the ever- increasing slope of the ground towards the gate. The worms attract birds which swoop, skid, trample and peck, adding to the damage caused directly by the worms.'

Mr Lamb also mentions a theory, which he considers implausible, that humans and animals are responsible for the muddiness, through their habit of walking towards the gate, opening it and passing through. He hopes for a research grant to study the entire phenomenon.

Rene Read has a simpler explanation: 'Farmers put gates in the muddiest part of the field to discourage double- glazing salesmen - a fact proven by the rarity of double- glazed gates.'

This week's first question (or second, if you include the winter monkeys) comes from Steve Prowse: Is the moth the most stupid living thing on the planet? We should also like to know (suggested by a query from Stuart Cockerill): What do people from the Southern Hemisphere call the Winter Olympics? And finally: If Hero was a woman, what is a heroine? (A J Williams).

Answers and more questions please to: Silly Questions, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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