A Fundamentally Eccentric Premise
This is an abridged version, ruined specially for the AIR web site. To read the full original article in all its glory or lack thereof, see the print magazine.
This issue of AIR, on British Eccentrics, is fundamentally wrong in its premise. To most Brits, "eccentrics" may be a little different from the average (in statistical terms, one sigma), but that small difference is perfectly acceptable and normal. I was born in England, and grew up there. Am I an "eccentric"? Let me first declare and aver -- on the basis of incontrovertible, dispassionate, unbiased and objective evidence -- that I am not [Finegold 2000].
Nutters and England
If you're way out (in statistical terms, a huge three sigmas) in Limeyland [Cook 1779], then you're not an acceptable eccentric but are a dangerous "nutter," to be carefully avoided by the rest of us sensible folk.
An example of a nutter would be the Canadian Prime Minister who, though married, consulted every night with his mother for practical political advice (yes, he really existed). There's nothing wrong with that, but for the small point that she was long dead [Macdonald 1867].
Indeed, it's pointed out that in mechanical engineering, cranks and eccentrics are essential to automobiles, so that without cranks and eccentrics, our modern civilization would crash.
Remembrance of Things Not Passed
Most people's memory drops off slightly with time (Fig. 1); for some it drops it off exponentially; many Brits see nothing wrong with a linear decrease. This linear decrease eventually becomes a negative memory, which means that some of us remember things that never were. (See Fig. 1 and caption.) Then the real problem is that we don't know which memories we forgot, and which we invented.
I trust that the above discussion clearly demonstrates -- from an Anglocentric point of view, which is obviously the only valid view -- that Brits (and especially this one) are not eccentrics at all. This whole issue of Annals of Improbable Research is, just like most of the other issues, fundamentally off base.
So, to the British, there ain't no such thing as an eccentric. The closest to "eccentric" that one might get is one long-time friend telling another "By gum, Alf, all the world's crazy but tha and me and, cum to think of't, tha's been acting a bit queer lately." Hence this issue on British eccentrics is based on an illusion, for they simply don't exist.
There goes a happy Eccentric
He doesn't give a d-mn.
I wish I were Eccentric.
My G-d, perhaps I am!
Cook, J., 1779. English are called Limeys because Captain James Cook (he used to live near me) pioneered lime fruit for his sailors, to ward off scurvy. With typical British efficiency, he chose the citrus fruit lowest in the anti-scurvy Vitamin C. So the English are no longer scurvy knaves... But I digress.
Finegold, L.X., 2000. Personal interview with LXF, 1 IV 2000.
Macdonald, J.A., 1867. He used to live near where I got hitched.
Onymous, A.N., 2000. I memorized this one. Sorry, can't find author. It's an oldie.
Weeks, Dr. D. and J. James, 1996. Eccentrics: A study of Sanity and Strangeness, Kodansha International, New York, p. 105.
© Copyright 2000 Annals of Improbable Research (AIR)