ON CROWDS, STRINGS AND BULLS

“I must say, adults do say strange things sometimes,” observed Arwen.

“How do you mean? asked Tamzin.

“Well, did you hear what daddy said this morning? Two’s company and three’s a crowd. Three don’t make a crowd. You don’t hear on the news that police reinforcements have been called out to deal with a crowd of three protesters outside some significant public building or wherever.”

“Yeh, three ain’t a crowd by any reckoning” agreed Tamzin.

“And then he said something about a film he saw being made on a shoe-string.”

“Shoe-string? Doesn’t he mean shoe-lace?” asserted Arwen. “And anyway, how do you make a film on a shoe-string, or rather shoe-lace? Films are usually made on celluloid aren’t they?”

“I think you’re right, Arwen: a light-sensitive emulsion on a plastic base. But I think the expression here means something like ‘not a lot of funding’. On the cheap, like.”

“I s’pose shoe-laces are relatively cheap,” replied Arwen. “But then again, a shoe-lace wouldn’t give you much to make a film. Probably not even the bus-fare to get to the studio.”

“Yeh. Weird way of talking or what! And then there’s that expression that means something like ‘easily provoked’.”

“What’s that then?” asked Arwen.

Like a red rag to a bull!” exclaimed Tamzin. “Thing is, bulls are partially colour blind. Of all the colours in the world they can’t see, well, red heads the list! If you flash a red rag at a bull it sees it as yellowish-grey.”

“So, ‘like a yellowish-grey rag to a bull’, then,” said Arwen, grinning. “Doesn’t have quite the same force of a provocation does it?”

“If I was a bull I think I would fall over laughing. Or trot off in disgust,” commented Tamzin.

“Yeh. You know what. I think we need to give adults some language lessons. Need to be taught to say what they mean,” said Arwen.

“And to think humans have had language for thousands of years…” sighed Tamzin.

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