Miles Kington: I've started, so I'll... arrrrrrrrgh!

'It's extremely tiresome to be faced with a man whose first name is virtually identical with his surname'
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The Independent Online

Yesterday I brought you an extract from the fascinating High Court action in which Mr Paul Blender is suing the TV quiz 'Mastermind' because as a contestant he claims he got every question right but got no points. His chosen subject was 'Ignorance', and as he said 'I don't know' in reply to every question put to him by Magnus Magnusson, he claims he proved his point. Whose side would you talk in the matter? To help you decide, here is another extract from proceedings.

Counsel: Now, Mr Blender, you claim that because you did not know the answer to any question, this showed a first-hand acquaintance with ignorance. What you are claiming, is it not, is that a demonstration of ignorance meant you were an expert on ignorance?

Plaintiff: I think so. I am not sure. It may be so. You might be right.

Counsel: Oh, come now, Mr Blender! Let us call things by their real name! What you are now demonstrating – and what you were demonstrating then – is not ignorance but stupidity! If ignorance is the failure to learn, stupidity is the inability to learn! Stupidity is the condition of not being able to achieve ignorance! Admit you are stupid and we can all go home!

Judge: May I ask, Mr Fortescue, why you are shouting at the plaintiff and generally treating him like an animal with foot-and-mouth disease?

Counsel: Yes, m'Lord. I am trying to break him psychologically and shatter his nerve until he is as putty in my hands, and will agree to any suggestion I put to him, including the idea that he is not ignorant.

Judge: Excellent idea! Carry on.

Counsel: Now, Mr Blender, you went on Mr Magnusson's show claiming that "Ignorance" was your special subject, is that not so?

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: Then let me ask you a few questions about ignorance. Why do we use the expression "pig ignorant"? Why do we think pigs are specially ignorant?

Plaintiff: I don't...

Counsel: Why do we call someone who is ignorant an "ignoramus"...

Plaintiff: I have no...

Counsel: Well, this is very interesting! You, a self-proclaimed expert on ignorance, seem to know nothing about it!

Plaintiff: On the contrary. I am not a self-proclaimed expert on ignorance.

Counsel: Yet when you went on Mastermind, the subject you chose, above all others, was "Ignorance"! Is that not the act of one who claims to be an expert?

Judge: I think he's got you there, Mr Blender.

Plaintiff: Not at all. It might also be the act of a man who has no specialised knowledge on any subject, but who thinks he can get away by pleading ignorance if, but only if, "ignorance" is his subject.

Judge: Very good. I think he's got you there, Mr Fortescue.

Counsel: This is mere playing with words, Mr Blender. If a man went on Mastermind and said his special subject was self-defence, would you expect him to pull out a gun and shoot Magnus Magnusson after the first question?

Plaintiff: Yes.

Counsel: Why?

Plaintiff: Because Magnus Magnusson asked the questions in a very annoying way. In any case, it's extremely tiresome to be faced with a man whose first name is virtually identical with his surname.

Counsel: True. I hadn't thought of that. Magnusson is the patronym of Magnus... I don't suppose any other famous people have ever had name doubles like that.

Plaintiff: I don't know. What about Jack Jackson, the old BBC disc jockey?

Counsel: That's true.

Judge: I've got another one for you. In my youth I was very keen on science fiction, and there was an admirable American writer of SF called Harry Harrison.

Counsel: Very good, my lord.

Plaintiff: What about you, Mr Fortescue?

Counsel: What about me?

Plaintiff: Well, we've both thought of well-known people whose surname was the patronym of their first name. Can you think of one?

Counsel: No, I don;'t think I can...

Plaintiff: Well, look who's ignorant now!

Judge: Yes, ignorance seems to be a movable feast, Mr "Know All" Fortescue!

(Goaded beyond endurance, Mr Fortescue at this point pulled out a small handgun and aimed a shot at the judge. The judge, unharmed but somewhat taken aback, adjourned the court.)


More of this case some other time. Then again, perhaps not