Mark Walmsley has a tale that provides an important insight into the intended use of those plastic things you can't stir tea with. "I recently purchased tea from a tragically demoralised and undervalued employee of a soon-to-be-privatised national industry. Indicating my dislike of the plastic objects in question, I asked if I could have a teaspoon with which to stir it and, on being refused, was given the somewhat Kafka-esque explanation that 'They are for coffee, really'." He therefore commends their use to anyone who likes stirring but doesn't have any tea.
Mollie Caird develops that idea, first fretting somewhat about the impossibility of deciding which end is meant to be the spoon and which the handle, then pointing out that they are ideal for not stirring black coffee with no sugar in it.
"Use to stir a warming cup of freshly brewed hot air, served up by British Rail chairmen," advises James Stokes. Or in pairs as cigar trimmers for mice. "Bury some," says Linda Browning, "to confuse future palaeontologists as they try to piece the creature together." Her letter is adorned with the multi-coloured patterns you can make by putting your felt-tipped pens through the holes.
"You misunderstand," Paul Martin admonishes us. "Most modern, typically machine-dispensed beverages are so insipid and weak that these little bits of plastic, properly used in pairs, are the crutches by which they are able to leave the cup and enter the mouth."
Splints or crutches for Barbie dolls, says M Joy, the first idea in a list that includes skis for nursery slopes, spatulas for toy poodles with sore throats, teddy-bears' back scratchers, struts for models of the Eiffel Tower, strung vertically as door curtains in naff caffs and handy jamming devices for use between crocodile jaws. Beryl of Manchester (or Beryl Manchester who has a comma for a middle name) glues them together to make sugar tongs for sweeteners, or unglues them as snow-shoes for ants. Roger Davies sees them as bubble-blowers for the geometrically challenged.
Finally, some late suggestions for things to do with astrologers. David Oliver thinks they could work behind the counter at Camelot, giving out lottery winnings and thus becoming fortune tellers. ME Jepson foresees them working for the AA and RAC doing star ratings for hotels. Bill Fowler can't think of any use for astrologers that would be believable. And John Browning thinks they could perform a useful function turning plastic tea-stirrers into runes.
Prizes to: M Joy, Paul Martin, Mark Walmsley. Next week, we'll be telling you what to do with split infinitives. Meanwhile, we seek uses for the 29th February. Chambers' Guide to Grammar and Usage prizes for the best ideas sent to: Creativity, The Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL.Reuse content