Add to Google


A bigger submarine

Juan is sulking because he wants to drive the submarine, but the captain won’t let him, and Albert is angry because Juan just beat him at chess again, and they’re both arguing about language, Albert claims that the language of mathematics is the purist form of communication, as it requires logic, whereas spoken language doesn’t even need to be true. Take, for example, the phrase ‘ignorance is bliss’ or ‘knowledge is power’; because of their isolation, the people of the Solomon Islands make an effort to be aware of world events, but, when it comes to international politics, the Solomon Islands are a joke; equally, says Albert, the people of Kansas are so ignorant they don’t know the rest of the world exists, but they aren’t happy.

Juan says that the only purpose for language is to praise the beauty of women. Murmuring endearments to a woman in French, he says, might make her melt, or complimenting her loveliness, in Italian, may set her on fire, but, in any language, saying something like “energy equals mass times the speed of light squared” will just make her think you’re weird. I can understand what Juan means, but point out that the practical, military, application of the equation will set thousands of women alight, and melt them, so Albert is quite right, in this instance, the equation is much more effective than romantic language. Juan says I have missed the point entirely, and Albert looks worried. I leave them to argue and go to check on George and Roly.

Roly is sullenly sketching birds in flight, George is gloomily painting diverse divers, they are both criticising each other’s efforts and, generally, seem to be in a bad mood. Roly seems particularly cross at George painting ducks, and calling them diving birds. A duck, he says, doesn’t dive. George says that a duck is the same as a dive and there’s no difference between ducking and diving. Roly says that a duck ducks and a diver dives, so, obviously, they’re completely different things. George says that that’s as ridiculous as saying that a puffin puffs and a chaffinch chafes, and trying to make something out of it. I put Roly and George’s bad tempered and incredibly stupid conversation down to us being begruttingly behind schedule, and the claustrophobic effects of being in a very small submarine, so I find the captain to explain the problem.

Unfortunately, the Vintage Brackla, Caperdonich, Glen Keith, and Edradour Special Reserve fumes, which are permeating the submarine, have caused the captain to become befuddled and he’s standing on his head, singing ‘‘Twas Summer Tide’ and ‘The Boatie Rows’ at the top of his voice. After giving him a good kicking, to sober him up, I persuade him to call another, bigger, submarine. When it arrives, I inform my companions and, to celebrate, Juan breaks open a barrel of Duff’s Defiance Private Reserve. After offering toast after toast to submariners, saluting the glory of the undersea world, and drinking to all those who dive or duck, of whatever species, we all fall in a heap and crawl around in circles, as fast as we possibly can.

Professor Humperdink’s Diary