Monday 29 November 2004

I like to think I'm a connoisseur.

A connoisseur of human stupidity, that is. It's just great. And there's so much of it about.

In this weekend's Observer comes the news that Merthyr Tidfil Borough Council are to ban the use of the word "brainstorm", as it could be offensive to people with mental disabilities or brain damage. The Royal Mail, by the way, don't allow their employees to use the word "handicap" — not only to describe disabled people, but when talking about golf, for instance — because its origin, apparently, is "cap in hand", so it has connotations of begging. I've been saying for ages that it's only a matter of time before someone bans the word "sinister" because it's offensive to left-handed people. I used to think I was joking, but am quickly coming to the conclusion that it really will happen. This inability to tell the difference between a word's origin, its meaning, and its connotations is compounded by a total ignorance of etymology (hello, Merthyr Borough Council), so that one Scottish police force banned the use of the phrase "rule of thumb", despite the fact that the story of its sexist origin is an urban myth. See also: "niggardly".

If you, too, are a connoisseur of human stupidity, then you might want to subscribe to This is True, a free weekly litany of idiocy. This week's brings us, first of all, a tale of bureaucrats being, unusually for their kind, a tad overzealous in their enforcement of the rules:

She'd already signed the precinct register when an election worker said her Bush-Cheney T-shirt amounted to illegal electioneering. So Debbie Dupeire pulled it off.

Dupeire, who voted in a sports bra, exercise pants and flip-flops, said she was afraid she would lose her chance to vote if she left to turn her shirt inside-out: the elections workers might not remember her, or might be away on break when she returned.

"I really thought it was OK to wear my shirt. I didn't go there to cause trouble," said Debbie Dupeire, a 38-year-old makeup artist from Jefferson who said she always votes.

Under state law, candidates' names cannot be displayed within 500 feet of a polling place.

Having failed to enforce the rules by letting her into the building in the first place, couldn't they just have let her vote and go? Any damage her advertising might theoretically have done had already been done during the fifteen minutes she was standing in the queue. By the time they spotted the infraction, it was already too late. Quite apart from making this woman's life unnecessarily difficult, they gave Bush some brilliant advertising here. Who, while standing in line to vote, will change their mind about who to vote for because they see someone wearing a T-shirt? No-one. Who, while standing in line to vote, will change their mind about who to vote for because they see an attractive Bush supporter whip off her T-shirt and vote in her bra? Well, at least half the young men in the area, I'd have thought. As usual, in insisting on the letter of the law, these idiots completely undermined its intention. (How do I know she's attractive? Because she took off her top in public. It doesn't matter what she looks like: such behaviour is inherently attractive.)

Secondly, there's this:

Police responding to a crash in Amherst, N.Y., reported finding both occupants of the vehicle unconscious in the back seat. According to their investigation, the married couple was driving home from a restaurant when the husband, Tiber L. Csapo Jr., 39, pulled over and punched his wife in the face. He resumed driving but continued beating her. She jumped into the back seat, but he followed her, whereupon the driverless vehicle ran off the road into heavy brush.

The truly amazing thing is that this man, at one point in his past, attempted courtship and succeeded. Quite a catch.

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