Noun. Spelt Biro & biro. Plural -os. Mid-20th century.
[Lázlo József Biró (1899-1985), Hungarian inventor.]
(Proprietary name for) a ball-point pen.
Although perhaps not. Looking closely, I'm not really sure that it is a Biro; it's just an anonymous, cheap ballpoint pen. That's the point, though, isn't it? Biros are so ubiquitous that we don't give them a passing thought as we hunt for them, chew them, dismantle them, suck them and occasionally write with them. And if someone lends us one, it's even questionable whether it's worth the bother of returning it. I mean, is it? Really? Worth standing up and crossing a hotel foyer to return a biro to the receptionist who'll probably just give you a quizzical oh-you're-actually-giving-that-back sort of look? This is one of the 20th century's greatest ethical conundrums.
|Andrea Joseph's bironic art|
And that's it: the humble yet thoroughly groundbreaking biro was born. It was quickly adopted by the RAF (whose pilots were rather tired of their fountain pens exploding mid-flight), became a favourite drawing tool for artists, and there's probably not a second of any day in which someone, somewhere, isn't asking: "Do you have a biro?" (and then wondering if they can be bothered to give it back).
Do you use biros?
Is "stealing" a biro really stealing?
Can you think of a better (or worse) pun?
Do please leave your comments below.