Monday, March 19, 2012

How many sheets could a sheet slitter slit if a sheet slitter could slit sheets?

Pedantry isn’t sexy, nobody likes it when a joke is suffocated by someone pointing out that said feat isn’t scientifically possible.  A good example of pedantry killing something enjoyed by many (in this case a limerick) is the often stated case of the man from Nantucket - we all know the feat he is famed for isn’t possible (although for some reason we focus on physical restrictives rather than the Nantucket man’s motives for his actions) and yet the limerick lives on.  The Nantucket limerick remains popular because it is extremely uncouth and guarantees a gasp from any folk new to its punchline (hell, even the Simpsons do their bit to keep this limerick alive), but the reason I’m using up valuable seconds of my life writing this blog post is to have a micro-rant (a ‘mant’ if you will) about a particular rhetorical question / failed limerick currently doing the rounds on Twitter; this one:

‘How many sheets could a sheet slitter slit if a sheet slitter could slit sheets?’

This silly question has been tweeted and re-tweeted so often that I now see it pop up at least three or four times a day in my timeline.  So why does it grind my gears so?  If I were a more eloquent individual I would write a humorous Wodehouse style article, but as this is my blog and I currently write while thick with the type of flu that could fell an Oxen I’m going to focus on just three of the aspects of this irritating and much forwarded ‘question’.


Slitters DO exist!
Slitter machines exist, and therefore they slit sheets, I should know as I sell slitter machines for a living, there are also many easily found websites that sell used slitter machines if you can be bothered to verify my statement.  In fact slitters are so common place in industry that there are websites for recruiting slitter operators! So this question of ‘if’ a sheet slitter could slit sheets is a nonsense, unless someone has tipped jam in the controls or driven a Bentley Continental into a slitter (yup, it has happened) then a slitter will indeed slit sheets.  In the slitter / converting industry we tend to refer to rolls being slit (and call the machines slitter rewinders), but specific sheet slitters do exist, and often cut sheets or shapes out of material using a die-cutting method.

Forwarding the question without analysis lacks original thought.
The cut ‘n’ pasting and / retweeting of this type of budget ‘joke’ exposes a lack of imagination, and I’m not an intellectual snob, but the willingness to pass on dumb jokes keeps alive the sort of sick jokes that do the rounds after a celebrity death or racist / religious attack, thereby keeping the hate alive.  There - I bet you didn’t see that coming did you - a serious point being made on my blog, whoodda thunk it.

It’s not big, and it’s not clever.
No sniggering at the back please....  This crap question isn’t even very clever, it’s asking for a performance report on a bit of machinery performing the task for which is was designed.  If you’ve read my blog before then you’ve no doubt already reached the conclusion that I was staring at the wrong side of the wall when the queue for intelligence handouts was forming, but with no forethought at all I can come up with plenty of these failed limerick / pointless rhetorical questions, look, I’ll prove it:

  • How many reels of rope would a rope reel winder wind if a rope reel winder would wind rope?
  • How many chickens could a chicken chopper chop if a chicken chopper could chop chickens?
  • How many cats could a cat catcher catch if a cat catcher could catch cats?
  • How many beer barrels could a beer bareller barell if a beer bareller could barrel beers?
  • How many thesis could a theorist theorise if a theorist could theorise about thesis?
  • How many novels could a novelist novelise if a novelist could novelise novels?
  • How many milk bottles could a milk bottle washer wash if a milk bottle washer could wash bottles?
  • How many shit examples of inane rhetorical questions could a bloke with the flu make up if a bloke with the flu could make up shit examples of inane rhetorical questions.  Answer - seven.

There isn’t one, but hey, this is the Internet, you weren’t expecting a logical closure where you?  Are people impressed by silly simple sequential alliteration?  Because any foolish fugger can find favour for fooling fools...