Silly Questions: Some are more ept than others

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The Independent Culture
BLONDES and blonds, the joy of eptness, zero ink capability and more train-spotting have inspired readers this week.

We start with a short paper by Keir Markland from De Montfort University, Leicester: 'The gene for the display of train-spotting behaviour is recessive and situated on the x-chromosome, which comes from the mother. If a carrier woman produces children fathered by a train-spotter, there is a 1 in 4 chance that any female offspring will also be train-spotters. Hence female train-spotters are extremely rare, but male train-spotters linger on.'

This presumably also explains what they do while their anoraks are in the wash: that must be when they are fathering children.

We move on to blondes, dumb or otherwise. John Lanyon, describing himself as tonally challenged, points out that males are blond not blonde, and men who fail to meet the criterion of tall, dark and handsome are similarly disadvantaged to blonde females.

Julian Blake believes that simple observation is enough to demonstrate that blond men are indeed dumb and adds: 'No great philosopher or thinker has ever been other than grey, bald or bearded, almost certainly from birth. In fairness, it should perhaps be added that some blonde women do, on occasion, choose to appear to be dumb.' Peter Lilley and Michael Heseltine were also referred to on this topic.

Why inept and not ept? John Gard feels positively gruntled when he has been ept. Nicholas Gough believes that the potential confusion with early pregnancy tests, ethylene-propylene terpolymer, excess- profits tax and external pipe thread is enough to discourage people from being ept. Although why they should be happy as advanced passenger trains he leaves unexplained. Gerard Benson points out that E P Thompson was 'just about as ept as a person can be'.

On the topic of why pens run out of ink shortly after starting a letter (though they doodled and filled in crosswords perfectly), Geoffrey Langley blames evaporation by spending too long on the aforementioned crossword and the blotting- paper quality of newsprint.

He recommends 'following the instructions in any good handbook of document conservation' before doing the crossword in order to 'enable both Lucifer and Mass to be dealt with as they deserve and still leave enough ink over for Portia and a letter to Silly Questions'. P Fermat had a 'truly wonderful' explanation of the same phenomenon, but unfortunately his pen ran out of ink just as he began to write.

This week's questions: If cats like eating fish so much, why don't they learn to swim? (G Tilley). Does Chelsea Clinton's choice of name for her cat explain why her dad is reluctant to introduce trade sanctions against Norway? (S Cockerill). And what does 'recorded live' mean, and what's the alternative? (R Richardson). Answers and more questions please to: Silly Questions, The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.