The power of 'duh'8th December 2006
Human (n.): Species uniquely prone to silly behaviour, including pointing out the very, very obvious.
When my older daughter was about five and suffering abdominal pain, I kept a close eye for several days and then took her to the paediatrician. As the good doctor prepared to examine her, she loosened her trousers - then breathed a massive sigh of relief as the waistband, far too snug after a sudden growth spurt, fell away. 'Oh!' she sighed, smiling, 'that is just SO much better!' Common sense: 1. Mummy: 0.
Fast-forward four years, to a flurry of reports about our surging use of prescription sleep aids. According to a leading American consumers' group, some 43 million prescriptions for sleeping pills were filled in the United States in 2005 - a 32 percent increase from 2001. Lest we infer that post-Sept. 11 anxiety is keeping ever-increasing numbers of us awake at night, consider that the National Coffee Association reports that more Americans are chugging more coffee than every before, and the coffee they're drinking gets stronger all the time. Very little of it is decaffeinated.
In 2006 alone, any sentient, semi-literate human might have found himself muttering 'duh' - that pithy, scornful, and uber-efficient shorthand for 'that's too obvious to discuss' - whilst sifting through the health section of the morning newspaper.
Consider the demographics of podiatry patients. Roughly two-thirds to three-quarters of all visits to podiatrists are made by, you guessed it, women. I'm willing to wager that this may reflect the female penchant for heels with height. (I'm hardly the person to point fingers here, I hasten to add, since I routinely perch my too-tall, over-caffeinated self atop shoes that practically put me eyeball-to-eyeball with NBA wunderkind Yao Ming.)
And then there's the Internet.
A new study finds that some people are in fact addicted to the Internet, by every measure of addiction known to the medical profession. The international neuropsychiatric journal CNS Spectrums reported in October that among more than 2,500 adults surveyed, 6 percent reported that "their relationships [had] suffered as a result of excessive Internet use." Nearly 14 percent reported they "found it hard to stay away from the Internet for several days at a time." Admittedly, we media types are a rather unusual lot, but I doubt I know a soul who doesn't feel at sea after abstaining from the Internet for several days.
All that screen time can work up an appetite, too, for ever-larger soft drinks and fast-food meals eaten ever more quickly, and less mindfully. All of which helps explain ('duh') why Americans and Britons are getting fatter with every passing year.
I suppose I shouldn't whinge too loudly or too long about all this folly, which does after all keep me employed, queuing at Starbucks, and fashionably if not comfortably shod most of the time.
But I don't expect I'll run out of material anytime soon. This is the species, after all, that prints warnings on frozen food packages that read, 'Cook product before eating.'
I'm actually thinking that 2007 might be the year to launch a 'Duh' Hall of Fame: Fashionistas worldwide, it seems, have rediscovered - I am not making this up - the corset.
If Imperial Chinese foot-binding makes a comeback, I promise you'll read it here first.
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