Silly Questions: It's all been a terrible mistake

FIRSTLY, let us catch up with the penguins squeezed out a couple of weeks ago. The question was why they are so often portrayed (as in Batman or The Wrong Trousers) as criminals. R J Pickles believes it is due to their resemblance in gait and dress to 'the sinister, ubiquitously evening-suited criminal elements who own speakeasies in gangster B- movies.'

N James provides a simpler explanation - 'penguins are unutterably evil.' He offers no explanation, although sufficient evidence to convict is provided by Caroline Hull who mentions their 'urge to tap- dance with Dick van Dyke' in Mary Poppins. She also cites Pingu's 'average village family' - a clear allusion to Mafia connections.

We move on to omniscience and omnipresence, and how they help you decide whether you have entered a cinema at the beginning or end of a film. David Webb writes: 'If one is omnipresent, one would have been in at the beginning of the film anyway.'

He adds: 'If one is omniscient, one would know anyway and asking how one would know is, in effect, seeking an explanation for omniscience itself, to which the answer must be that if one is omniscient one would know how one would know.' R J Pickles further elucidates by pointing out that the omnipresent, omniscient cinemagoer would have identified the beginning and end of the film by the influx and egress of time-bound mortals.

Why does PC stand for so many different things? 'The answer is easy-PC,' says N Millward. 'It's Perfectly Clear,' says Bill Allen. 'Probably Coincidence,' says W James. Stuart Cockerill says PC stands for so many things 'because he feels it is important to be in touch with the real world, not seen as just a constitutional figurehead'.

But when Prince Charles assumed the monarchy and starts referring to himself as 'we' instead of 'one', will his use of the word 'they' change its meaning? According to Sebastian Sandys, writing in reply to our question concerning the level of authority at which people stop referring to the authorities as 'they', it will.

Here is the Sandys Theory of Personal Pronouns: 'Those in authority stop referring to 'they' at about the same time as they stop referring to 'I' when it comes to taking responsibility. When the monarch adopts the 'royal we', she also stops referring to 'they'. When the President of the United States tell us that 'mistakes were made' rather than 'I cocked it up', there are no references to 'they'.'

James Snowden adds: 'You stop calling the authorities 'they' at the point when you start applying the term to the masses, especially if you hold them in no regard.'

Finally, we return to the question of cul-de-sac, bum-bag, and rue sans issue. Several readers have corrected our translation of cul-de-sac as bum-bag, pointing out that in fact it means bag-bum. N Edwards goes further, correcting also our plural form, culs-de-sac.

Although it is sanctioned by all good dictionaries, he claims that this form is only strictly correct for polybumular bags, or - in the case of roads - for a dead end that has several avenues leading up it. He claims that cul-des-sacs should be used for several distinct dead ends leading off the same turning, and culs-des-sacs for dead ends with separate entries.

This week's questions: Why do Americans try to pronounce 'squirrel' as a monosyllable? (J Williams). Why are the 'Downs' of Surrey, Kent, and Dunstable not 'Ups', which surely they are? (Miss S Le Moucheux). Why, when I load my camera with black and white film, does the image appear in full colour in the viewfinder? (Arnold Cleaver). All inspiration to: Silly Questions, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum