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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: 3rd Line Virtualisation, Windows & Server Engineer

£40000 - £47000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A 3rd Line Virtualisation / Sto...

Recruitment Genius: Refrigeration and Air Conditioning Service Engineer

£26000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A successful national service f...

Recruitment Genius: Business Development Executive / Sales - OTE £25,000

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an opportunity to join ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Fixed Term Contract

£17500 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: We currently require an experie...

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)
Cycling World Hour Record: Nervous Sir Bradley Wiggins ready for pain as he prepares to go distance

Wiggins worried

Nervous Sir Bradley ready for pain as he prepares to attempt cycling's World Hour Record
Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Liverpool close in on Milner signing

Reds baulk at Christian Benteke £32.5m release clause
On your feet! Spending at least two hours a day standing reduces the risk of heart attacks, cancer and diabetes, according to new research

On your feet!

Spending half the day standing 'reduces risk of heart attacks and cancer'
With scores of surgeries closing, what hope is there for the David Cameron's promise of 5,000 more GPs and a 24/7 NHS?

The big NHS question

Why are there so few new GPs when so many want to study medicine?