An Honest Man


A recent post reported that: “people who swear tend to be more honest and trustworthy”. I don’t know the truth of this because I have never met anyone who didn’t swear and therefore I have no basis for comparison.

Back in 1965 I was 16 years old and an apprentice with the GPO (now British Telecom or B.T.) in Liverpool and assigned to work in Liverpool with a “Heavy Gang”. I learned to crawl around in malodorous manholes, I learned to climb terrifyingly tall telephone poles and I acquired an entirely new vocabulary along with hitherto unimaginable insights into female anatomy.

I’ll never forget the time that one of my co-workers indicated that he had concluded his in-depth fault finding analysis on a suspected item of equipment and that he had confirmed that the item was indeed damaged beyond all possibility of repair. He stated:

“This fucking fucker’s fucking fucked.”

His phrasing was admirably succinct, grammatically correct, and a beautiful illustration of the richness and flexibility of the English language. My erstwhile colleague’s well turned minimalist phrase can also be pressed into service as an illustration of the fundamentals of English grammar.

The first instance of fuck is an example of an adjectival intensifier where “fucking” in its sense of “annoying”qualifies and intensifies the noun “fucker”.

The generic noun “fucker” can stand for any material object or person as in “that fucker is a stupid fuck” but in this case it stands for the malfunctioning piece of telephonic equipment and as such might even be considered as a pronoun.

The second use of “fucking” is as an adverb and as in the adjectival form it is used as an intensifier. The suspected item was not merely “fucked” it was “fucking fucked”.

The final invocation of “fuck” is as a verb in its informal sense of “to damage or to break” and is used here in the past perfect form.

So there you have it: he could have said “The piece of equipment that has been the cause of so much irritation is really broken now and is beyond all possibility of repair. Instead he said “This fucking fucker’s fucking fucked.”

And by the way, he was an honest man.



Jacob Youphes, was born in Riga in 1831, he emigrated to the United StatesIn in 1854 where he ran a tailors shop in New York and changed his name to Jacob Davis. He moved to Maine and then to San Francisco before finally winding up in Reno Nevada where he invented a way of using rivets to make working pants stronger and longer lasting.

Davis teamed up with another immigrant, Levi Strauss from Bavaria, and together they took out U.S. patent number 139,121 and blue jeans were born.

Just think! Without the immigration of people with funny hats, strange accents and alien beliefs the cowboys may have been forced to ride the range bare arsed.

Shalom !


Feeling a tad peckish, I opened a can labeled “mulligatawny soup”, applied some basic thermodynamics and ate the soup. The label on the can was really useful, it said the can contained mulligatawny soup and so it did.

Labels are great for simple things like soup, but less so for more complicated things like smart phones for instance. I use my smart phone for several hours every day but only rarely to make telephone calls. My beloved S4 is sometimes: an mp3 player, a book reader, a movie viewer, an alarm clock, a calendar and a nifty GPS navigation system. So what is it really ?

Labels really don’t work that well for people either because not only are people more complicated than soup cans, they are more complicated even than smart phones.

Here are a few labels that apply to me: liberal, conservative, libertarian, authoritarian, capitalist, socialist, christian, atheist, agnostic, funny, boring, pedantic, serious, repetitive, cavalier, religious, irreligious, blasphemer, heretic, apostate, rationalist, racist, humanist, literate, illiterate, smart, stupid, educated, ignorant, humble, snobbish, proud, cowardly, brave, sexist, homophobic, pro gay rights, pro feminism, bigoted, naive, gullible, altruistic, kind, thoughtless, caring, inconsiderate, generous, repetitive, selfish and cruel. Those are just the labels that I concede as appropriate and applicable to me at certain times and in certain places.

Capitalist because competition inherent in a free market leads to innovation and efficient production. Socialist because the market is not always the best arbiter of value and I prefer not to be accosted by beggars nor do I like my rivers to burn, nor my lakes to die nor my one and only planet to be killed by indifference, greed or stupidity.

Libertarian because I hate rules and restrictions and I value freedom. Authoritarian because I accept that some rules and their enforcement promote better football games, more useful and efficient markets and driving is a whole lot safer if everyone drives on the same side of the road. Even Adam Smith’s invisible hand sometimes needs a visible hand to keep the bastards honest.

Liberal because ideas and their free expression matter, conservative because change is not necessarily progress.

Atheist because I don’t think there is or ever has been a god except in the imagination. Agnostic because it is impossible to be absolutely certain of anything.

Christian because I was baptized and have the photo to prove it. Religious because at one time I believed in Jesus and Irreligious because reading the bible, other holy books, science and world history cured me of uncritical belief a long time ago.

Homophobic because I once joined others in taunting a kid who was different and perhaps helped to drive him to suicide. His name was Timothy.

Pro gay rights because I once joined others in taunting a kid who was different and perhaps helped to drive him to suicide. His name was Timothy.

Sexist because I sometimes think women are really strange.
Pro feminist because I think that women are really great.

Racist because I once assumed that Brits were naturally superior to everyone else. A bunch of smart people with different accents, differently shaped eyes and different skin tones cured me of that particular stupidity.

Literate because I can read and write English, illiterate because I can’t read or write Chinese, Japanese, Sanskrit, Hebrew, Cyrillic or any writing system other than my own.

You can call me anything you like I suppose but you should recognize that any particular label is as likely to mislead as to inform and may say more about you than it says of me.

So what label best fits this walking mass of confusion and contradictions ? I don’t know but my name is Eric and the mulligatawny soup was delicious.