Silly Questions: Pointing out facts on fingers

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The Independent Culture
WHY are our fingers of differing lengths? According to Peter Cowan it is to help us reach the innermost crevices of pocket or purse. 'It is an anatomical fact that the fingers of misers are short and of the same length, enabling them to feel in purse or pocket without touching money.' Chris Johnson agrees on the matter of crevices, but disputes the search object: 'The important fact is that the length of a finger is directly proportional to its diameter, thus making available to us a selection of fingers with which it is always possible to pick one's nose, irrespective of nostril size.'

Several correspondents have pointed out that gloves would not fit properly if our fingers were all the same length, but only Robert Maier, writing from Regensburg, Germany, has probed the topic more deeply: 'When glaciers covered the earth, a major fault in primitive knitting craft was discovered: they could not knit corners. Ice Age mittens were consequently the same rounded shape as today. Homo equidigitens, the equal-fingered majority, were frost-bitten into extinction as the mitten-fabric tore, or fumbled their way to death through wearing mittens too large for them. Only the mutants with unequal digits survived and flourished and evolution did the rest.'

Julia Shipton asks: 'How come fingers all convert to the same length when you make a fist?'

All of which pushes the topics of muddy gates and brass monkeys into next week, save a brief mention of Tom Gaunt's belief that brass monkeys and flies operate a time- share, with the monkeys in summer going where the flies go in winter.

This week's posers: Where can I get imitiation greenfly for imitation flowers? (Tom Gaunt) What does the 'package of measures' the Government keeps promising us look like, and is it anything like a broad raft of measures? (Sue Hall) And finally: 'Sir,' writes N James, 'Adam & Eve, Romeo & Juliet, Hero & Leander, Orpheus & Euridice; from the beginning of time, it's been the practice to put the man's name first, except for Bonnie & Clyde, who were crooks. So why is it Torvill & Dean?' All replies and further questions to: Silly Questions, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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