Humour — 03 June 2013

Terrifying Epidemic of Stating the Obvious is sweeping the world.

The sign on the store window said: “Ears Pierced. While You Wait.” No doubt staff put up this notice (sent to me by a Hong Kong reader) to differentiate their salon from those at which customers have to leave their ears and collect them later.

Or it could have been an attack of obviousitis. This spreading disease makes people feel the need to verbally express things that should be self-evident to a moderately alert piece of belly-button fluff.

For example, several times I’ve been served airline snacks emblazoned with “Eat after opening”. I always look around to see if other passengers are chewing the unopened packet but haven’t seen this yet (although my neighbor on a recent Ryanair flight came close).

Or consider a publication called the Cosmo Xmas Gift Guide, which recommended that readers give their friends doorstops, saying: “You can’t go wrong with these as almost everyone has doors.” I guess they put in the word “almost” for readers buying gifts for undiscovered Stone Age tribespersons.

Journalists are increasingly smitten by obviousitis which explains why I was sent an aviation report saying “So far, they have determined that the crash occurred when the plane hit the ground” and a clipping of a headline saying: “Death is nation’s top killer.”

The epidemic of stating the obvious may have reached its zenith with the publication of a book of party tips by Pippa Middleton, a relative of the British royal family. “Flowers are a traditional Valentine’s token, and red roses are the classic symbol of romance,” she writes.

The tips in the book are so self-evident that they have triggered the creation of numerous Pippa-style “pro tips” on the internet, such as:

1) “The juice of an orange can be used as a refreshing and nutritious drink. You can get it from oranges.”

2) “Save time by doing things more quickly.”

3) “A great way to deal with over-grown hair is to have a haircut.”

Obviousitis has also invaded restaurants. Every meal now ends with the waiter pointing to my empty plate and making an elaborate “Are you finished?” gesture with his palm and eyebrows. No, I haven’t finished: I plan to eat the plate next.

Sufferers are likely to take “Top Tips”, the famously dysfunctional advice column from Viz magazine, at face value. Example: “Save money on expensive personalized car number plates by simply changing your name to match your existing plate: Mr KVL 741Y.”

Another useful one was this: “Philanderers: Avoid the embarrassment of shouting out the wrong name in bed by having flings only with girls who have the same name as your wife.”

After a thunderstorm recently I entered my office soaked to the skin to be greeted by one of my colleagues with: “Is it raining outside?” I said: “No, I just had a shower in my clothes.”

But those of us who cannot resist making ironic comebacks can slip up. One reader told me she was stopped by police on a highway. “Is this your car?” an officer asked. “No, I stole it,” she deadpanned.

It took her an hour to persuade them she was joking. So here’s a new Pippa-style pro tip: “When detained by police, avoid confessing to major crimes you haven’t committed.”

by Nury Vittachi, Bangkok, columnist and journalist

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