Silly Questions: The long and the short of it - World - News - The Independent

Silly Questions: The long and the short of it

THE QUESTION of why trousers are measured in even numbers for the waist and odd for the leg has aroused great interest. David J White thinks it helps avoid confusion. 'If you can remember 34/31, you do not have to remember which is which, as the 34 - being even - must be the waist, and the 31, being odd, must be the leg.'

Peter Lawson writes: 'I have a consistently even number from top to bottom (or foot) and an increasingly odd number round the middle. Assuming I am the exception, this would explain why most gentlemen from the United States, where trouser lengths have an even number of inches, wear their trousers to the ankle rather than the instep.'

We return, following Mr Lawson's problems with his foot and bottom, to last week's item on why the bottom is in the middle of the body. Stuart Cockerill denies mankind's schismatic transition from four legs to two. He suggests an intermediate tripedal stage when our ancestors toppled over backwards and the bottom became the third foot, functioning as a basal pseudopodium. 'Bottoms have to be in the middle,' says Stuart Grant, 'otherwise we'd still be standing up every time we sat down.'

We move on to how many Silly Questions answerers it takes to change a dark bulb. The numbers 42 and 10-to- the-42nd occurred in several answers, though never with any attempt at explanation.

James McLaren says it is at least 11: 'One to change it, four Yorkshiremen to complain about how new bulbs aren't what they used to be, and at least six Creativity column correspondents to find something to do with the other bulb.'

Mark Walmsley points out that a dark bulb only fails once in a blue moon, 'but when it does, it requires one Silly Questions answerer to change it, and several dozen to ruin their productivity by thinking about it laterally for a couple of days.'

H Francis Reed PhD points out that a dark bulb emits UV light which is not visible to the human eye, so we'd never realise it needed changing. Even if an observed change in the effector system were to suggest a change in state of the bulb, it might not be possible to determine any significant difference between a possible random event and a real effect, thus making it impossible to prove that the bulb needed changing.

Stuart Cockerill says: 'It is the ethos of the Silly Questions answerer not to change things, merely to analyse them.' So we'd fax for an electrician. His wife Christine, rather than putting pen to paper, puts Stuart to keyboard to say: 'The only light they notice is radiated from the computer screen and must be a very good source of vitamin D, otherwise they'd suffer from rickets or repetitive stress syndrome, or something like that.'

Which is as good a note as any on which to take our summer holiday. Only rhetorical answers will be accepted for the next fortnight at: The Independent, 40 City Road, London EC1Y 2DB.

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