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07 April 2014

Grandpa’s Knob: what separates Americans from the rest of the English-speaking world

Reading quietly in bed this morning with my pint of tea, I suddenly found myself convulsed by such uncontrolled spasms of laughter that the neighbours were soon hurrying in to see if they needed to call a doctor, or if the was any flood risk to the occupants of the flat below from split sides.
     The cause of the attack was the paragraph heading reproduced below from The Quest, Daniel Yergin’s excellent follow up to The Prize. After 600 pages of severely Protesto-Talmudic fact about the entirely humour-free history of the modern international energy industry, I spotted a joke. Of course, I immediately realised that it was not a joke, but yet another example of what separates Americans from the rest of the English-speaking world, from Aberdeen to Woomera, namely the absence of any genito-urinary innuendo in the way Americans use the word “knob”.
     The mental image of a group of sturdy renewable energy pioneers climbing up “Grandpa’s Knob” to site a huge wind turbine there was what caused my sudden descent into hysteria and all concerned citizens within earshot running to my bedside, some equipped with respirators and smelling salts, others with chloroform pads. One even brought an old, Stalin-era straight-jacket.
     By now I have probably ruined the joke for you. Sorry. But consider the possibilities of continuing it with one of our esteemed American friends. Ask him or her if he or she has ever climbed on top of ascended “Grandpa’s Knob” and see what happens. “Did you ascend by the North Face?” I can see him or her maintaining a bemused, Protesto-Talmudic po-face while every other English-speaker in the room cracks up, though hopefully not as wildly as I did if only out of compassion for the only “knob head” in the room.

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