By Gareth Edwards

Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Vikings, Duvets and Meaningless Revelry

Welcome to the blog that sets out to explain everything once and for all for the rest of time. Here are the answers to some of your recent questions.

Nance asked According to historical records, who was the first person to sign a secret diary, rant or poison pen letter with "Anonymous"?
Until the 15th century social convention decreed that people sign their names to every single document no matter how offensive or contentious. This lead to embarrassment, acts of revenge and quite boring Valentine’s Days. Then in 1487 a particularly unpleasant poem entitled “Three-and-twenty Reasons forwhy Alisoun Truggmakyr is an Rottyn Bytche” was nailed to the side of a well in Devizes, Wilthsire. It was signed simply “Anonymous”. The towns-people gathered round puzzling over the meaning of the new word until Sir Godfrey deBodfrey stepped forward and announced that it meant that the name of the author was secret. When asked how he knew this, Sir Godfrey went red and began talking about the weather. The new word immediately became a part of the language, and Godfrey deBodfrey was pushed into the well by Alisoun Truggmakyr.

Scott asked How do they get the non-stick surface of a non-stick frying pan to stick to the pan itself?
By not using a stick.

@ComedyPunkz asked Why is bed more warm & comfy on weekday mornings than on weekend mornings?
Etienne Duvet’s pioneering methodology for lying in bed thinking about stuff, Bedpoststructuralism, posits that the reality of the external world recedes as the self snuggles further under the covers. This means that to the snoozer the outside world only has meaning in so far as it is not as nice as the bed. It therefore follows that the colder and more horrid the outside world the cosier the bed must therefore always already be. Thus on a cold weekday in February in Croydon the whole idea of getting out of bed collapses in on itself, and shortly thereafter so does the person trying to get up, a concept known as Indiff√©rance.

Julian: Who actually put the bomp in the bop-she-bop-she-bop? While we're at it, who put the ram in the ram-a-lang-a-ding-dong? And most importantly, what on earth are either of them, and why?
If you look carefully you’ll see that there isn’t a “bomp” in the “bop-shoo-bop-shoo-bop” (you’ll see I’m using use the Folio spelling “shoo” which I think is more widely accepted than “she”). It’s just “bops” and “shoos”. In fact a hoax internet “bomp” alert such as yours is likely to attract the attention of the law, with the police spending thousands of pounds of taxpayers money on a disproportionate and ill-considered prosecution of your threatening behaviour, and rightly so. Meanwhile “Ram” is the Biblical figure Ram, son of Hezron and forbear of King David, and it was added to the a-lang-a-ding-dong by Oliver Cromwell in1653 replacing the earlier “Hey-nonny-a-lang-a-ding-dong” which Cromwell regarded as “most foul and meaningless revelry”.

Chelsea: Why is Iceland green and Greenland ice?
The sagas of Gunnbjörn Ulfsson, Erik the Red and the Viking settlement of Iceland and Greenland are well known, but posterity has been less kind to the exploits of 10th century practical joker Sigurd the Sign-Swapper who sailed throughout the known world making things confusing for everyone else for his own selfish amusement, eventually returning home to spend his declining years in the remote Danish village of Beirut.

That’s all for this month, but why not subtract from the sum of human bewilderment  by posting a question in the comments section below? Just a small effort on your part will make an immeasurable difference to future generations.

Friday, 1 February 2013

Laissez-Faire Llamas and a Globe Full of Snow

Welcome to another installment of the blog that knows all the answers to everything in the universe, but doesn’t like to go on about it.

Nance asked How do you get snow into a snow globe?

Snow globe construction is as simple in theory as it is hard in practice. A trained snow-globe trapper simply scours the arctic in summer looking for a suitable micro-climate. Then he waits. As soon as the weather turns snowy he scoops the clouds up into a hand-blown glass dome and glues an ugly plastic miniature village to the bottom, inverts it, then begins the long trek back south to civilization and its gift shops.

@alexthomp18 I gave a cat some dog food. Can anything bad happen as a result?
1) Your cat will hate you.
2) Your dog will hate you.
3) Your dog will hate your cat.
Isn’t there already enough hate in the world?
 asked What is the probability that llamas will take over the world in 2013?

This cannot possibly happen, for the simple reason that llamas have already taken over the world. You might think that this explains a lot about why the world is in such a sorry state and add that our llama masters have made a pretty poor fist of managing the planet, but the truth is that llamas feel it’s inappropriate to meddle in the day to day affairs of humans or indeed any other species, including llamas. Some might term the llama’s attitude laissez-faire free market economics but the truth is that llamas are just massively passive aggressive, as you can tell by their facial expressions.

"I'm totally fine actually"             

Robert Hudson On a hot summer night, would you offer your throat to the wolf with the red roses?
The poor wolf is probably deeply uncomfortable. Not only is it a hot, humid night and he's stuck wearing fur, but his date has clearly stood him up. Now he's sat there sweltering and clutching his rather over-the-top bouquet feeling like an idiot. I'd offer him a whisky and soda and book him a cab.

@slepkane Why is a watch called a watch?
When the first portable timepieces appeared in 14th century Florence they were as much for prestige as punctuality. Any nobleman wealthy enough to own a “clocetto” as they were then known would have no real need to turn up on time to anything, but would instead expect people patiently to await his arrival, and so the clocetto had just one hand which indicated the month. Nor was convenience a consideration for anyone with a retinue of servants, so the clocettos were carried about by twenty or thirty footmen, or in one case a team of dray elephants. With neither size nor functionality imposing any limitations on design the clocettos became all about spectacle. Cosmo da Grazia’s clocetto featured life-sized wooden models enacting the racier bits from Boccaccio’s Decameron while the Duke of Panini’s was decorated with battling Greek triremes on a real lake. Thus when one nobleman casually met another in the Piazza he might ask “if he had the right month on him”, prompting the latter to get out his clocetto. This would result in a spectacular contest of competing displays lasting several hours, always introduced with the one word “Watch!” Only in 14th century Italian obviously.

If you have been affected by any of the issues raised in this blog I am frankly astonished. However, why not add to the sum of human knowledge by asking your own question in the comments below.