And your mother’s monosodium glutamate!

July 24, 1998

The other day I heard one kid say to another, "Leave me alone, corn starch!" I’ve heard some really clever insults in my time, as well as some unbelievably stupid ones. In middle school, I once told a kid he was a fountain of verbal eloquence. He turned around and said, "So’s your momma!" I can’t tell you how happy my mother was to hear that. Anyway, "corn starch" has to rank as one of the best insults I’ve ever heard in my life, despite the fact that it doesn’t have that special kick you only get by referring to bodily functions (and I think we can all think of examples). Just consider what calling someone "corn starch" is saying about that person: they’re powdery, tasteless, and not good for anything but thickening soups and gravy!" And the real advantage of it is that, like the cloud of ink the octopus uses to escape from its dimwitted predators, calling a bully "corn starch" will make him stop long enough to make an easy escape. Sure, eventually bullies will catch on that it’s an insult, but by that time you’ll be gone like mouthwash.

Lesser Primate Committee Thinking

Start with a cage containing five apes. In the cage, hang a banana on a string and put stairs under it. Before long, an ape will go to the stairs and start to climb towards the Banana. As soon as he touches the stairs, spray all of the apes with cold water.

After a while, another ape makes an attempt with the same result-all the apes are sprayed with cold water.

Turn off the cold water.

If, later, another ape tries to climb the stairs, the other apes will try to prevent it even though no water sprays them.

Now, remove one ape from the cage and replace it with a new one. The New ape sees the banana and wants to climb the stairs. To his horror, all of the other apes attack him. After another attempt and attack, he knows that if he tries to climb the stairs, he will be assaulted.

Next, remove another of the original five apes and replace it with a New one. The newcomer goes to the stairs and is attacked. The previous Newcomer takes part in the punishment with enthusiasm.

Again, replace a third original ape with a new one. The new one makes it to the stairs and is attacked as well. Two of the four apes that beat him have no idea why they were not permitted to climb the stairs, or why they are participating in the beating of the newest ape.

After replacing the fourth and fifth original apes, all the apes which have been sprayed with cold water have been replaced. Nevertheless, no ape ever again approaches the stairs. Why not?

"Because that’s the way it’s always been around here." Sound familiar?

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