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I Spy I
by Asa Butcher
2007-12-16 09:47:25
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Idiots, complete idiots, that's the focus today. I spy idiots. No, I don't mean Fyodor Dostoevsky's novel The Idiot, I mean the word derived from the Greek διώτης - a person lacking professional skill, a private citizen, individual - and to establish myself outside of the realm of idiot (at least for the length of this I Spy) you will have noticed I began with a reference to a Russian novelist and discussed the etymology of the word. If you didn't notice, well you must be some sort of very foolish or stupid person.

Idiot, idiocy, idiotic, idioticalness and idiotically, those are some great words, but just how stupid does somebody have to be before they can apply for membership to that exclusive club? What criteria need to be satisfied before the term can be stencilled upon somebody's forehead and if they have to ask if 'idiot' is spelt with one 'd' or two what happens then? Intelligence, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder, we all have our own benchmark for nincompoopedness (is that a real word?) and everybody has their own lapses into the realm of simpleton - some are even elected to govern a country.

"Reader, suppose you were an idiot. And suppose you were a member of Congress. But I repeat myself," wrote the 19th century satirist Mark Twain, and he has a stinging point even 125 years later. George Bush once reassured a nation that he has opinions of his own -- strong opinions -- but he doesn't always agree with them, Dan Quayle warned us that if we don't succeed then we run the risk of failure and Tony Blair told us what is the single most important two things we can do, so what hope do the rest of us have?

"Dear MENSER, I think I’m clever…", "How many undiscovered caves are there?", "I understand completely but what does it mean?", "If he hadn't opened it then it would have been somebody else or nobody at all", "We had to queue outside with no air-conditioning" and "I was bitten by a mosquito - no one told us they could bite" are just a fraction of idiotic statements and questions I have heard and collected over the years, while others from close family and friends remain classified for their own protection.

How do you deal with adults with less intelligence than children, for example at Florida's SeaWorld the kids were asked the fun question: Is Shamu the Killer Whale 'black and white' or 'white and black'? The couple sat behind us argued over the answer until it was revealed both were correct, but even then they continued to analyse the question. You have to wonder whether the idiot is merely having a momentary brain fart or if it is a case of 'abandon all hope', like those on the recent YouTube video I had the misfortune of watching.

Random Americans on the street were asked a host of questions, such as 'Name a country beginning with U', with the answers including Yugoslavia, Utah and Utopia, 'How many sides does a triangle have?' Four? There are no sides… one? And my favourite asks how many Eiffel Towers are there in France, with the answer guessing at ten, which proves that Gustave Eiffel was just lazy stopping at one. I know the Americans are always an easy target and I didn't mean to single them out, since I know that there are equally as many stupid Brits, Finns and Utopians, but they don't usually advertise their idiocy in YouTube videos, which is actually clever of them.

Whether idiotic moments are caused by a temporary mental breakdown, a pause in normal programming or basic ignorance of certain knowledge is neither here or there because the real cause is still unknown to me - I don't know everything and am not about to guess or I'd look like the very thing I am analysing. Wherever something is foolproof you will eventually find proof of a fool, just make some effort to ensure you are the one shaking his head in disbelief and not the one scratching it in confusion. As Albert Einstein once said, "Only two things are infinite, the universe and human stupidity, and I'm not sure about the former."

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Emanuel Paparella2007-12-16 10:33:31
The following questions and answers were collected from last year’s GCSE exams, and are some of the answers given by British students writing their fifth form GCSE Exams last year. These are genuine responses from 16 year olds.
Q: Name the four seasons.
A: Salt, pepper, mustard and vinegar. (If an American did this he would say ketchup, ketchup, ketchup and ketchup.)
Q: Explain one of the processes by which water can be made safe to drink.
A: Flirtation makes water safe to drink because it removes large pollutant like grit, sand, dead sheep and canoeists. (I cannot agree more.)
Q: How is dew formed?
A: The sun shines down on the leaves and makes them perspire. (Wait……)
Q: What is a planet?
A: A body of earth surrounded by sky.
Q: What causes the tides in the oceans?
A: The tides are a fight (??????????) between the Earth and the Moon. All water tends to flow towards the moon, because there is no water on the moon, and nature abhors a vacuum. I forget where the Sun joins in this fight.

I've been told that George Bush collected the responses, read them and then exclaimed: no wonder we Americans inherited the British Empire. But whomever told me that must surely be an idiot.

Alexandra Pereira2007-12-16 15:45:27
poetic answers :)

Emanuel Paparella2007-12-16 16:26:29
The silverlining? :)

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