Sunday, 21 July 2013

Biro - Balls Well That Pens Well

Balls well that pens well, Biro, Bic, Ballpoint pen, Notepad, Dictionary

BIRO

Noun. Spelt Biro & biro. Plural -os. Mid-20th century.
[Lázlo József Biró (1899-1985), Hungarian inventor.]

(Proprietary name for) a ball-point pen.

I should probably start with an apology to Mr Biró himself, for I think it unlikely that his biro was ever used to pen a more terrible pun. And I had other options: one fine young lady suggested "Doing it Write Since 1935". But alas! No sooner had I sat at my desk to research this post than I found I had scrawled those words across my notepad: "Balls Well That Pens Well". My apologies, Mr Biró.

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, drawing, pen, ink
Andrea Joseph's bironic art
While it might seem so inconsequential, the humble biro is one of Hungary's greatest inventions (and Hungary has quite a few, believe you me). Biró wasn't the first person to come up with (or even patent) the idea of a rolling-ball system for pens, but he was the first to make it commercially viable. With his brother György, a chemist, he perfected the troublesome ink viscosity and the ball housing unit, and the ballpoint pen was born in 1935 (patented in Britain in 1938). Since then, a biro has become a generic term for any (cheap) ballpoint pen, whether it happened to an actual Biro or not (the Biro trademark is now owned by Bic).

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).

Ballpoint pen, Hungarian inventions, Bic, Biro

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.

23 comments:

  1. You have pretty handwriting.

    Really, you guys call it a biro? I've never even heard the word! We call them a bic. Doesn't have to be an actual bic, just any random ballpoint pen could be a bic over here. Just like the biro in English!

    And since I absolutely hate it if someone asks me for a pen and "forgets" to return it: yes, stealing is stealing. Bics/biros cost money too, humpf.

    ---
    RYC: The world isn't ready for tall people, that's what I think. It feels threatened by the vertically gifted and by means of all designers of the world, it tries to stop evolution by folding us in half.

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    1. Thanks Bibi - I'm really interested in handwriting. This is my "taking notes" handwriting, rather than my "letter-writing" writing. People sometimes say that my handwriting looks like a woman's ... the cheek!

      And yes, we call it a biro, whether or not it's a Bic Biro. A biro does sound cheap and semi-disposable though - I wouldn't think of a Parker ballpoint as a biro.

      And a biro? Really?? Are you the type that stands there tapping your foot until you're given it back? Hmph indeed.

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    2. Nah, not a woman's, just a man who doesn't write like he just suffered a seizure.

      Well, I wouldn't go as far as to stand there tapping my feet, but I would definitely stand there. What would you need my pen for anyway? If you ask for my pen it's to fill out something hardly significant, something that takes maybe a maximum of five minutes. Nobody forgets things in such a short amount of time.

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    3. What if I've chewed your biro? Should I still return it then?

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  2. Today's post made me feel a bit pensive.

    -clueless.

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  3. I can't get over how clever your pun is! ha ha ha ha ha

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    1. Thanks Evi - it seemed too fitting to pass up : o )

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  4. This has been so entertaining haha. Also... does the watermark on your notebook say "PLAIN LAZY"?

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    1. Umm ... yes it does. In full, it says "Plain Lazy - Undercover Genius". Someone clearly thought it would be an appropriate gift for me - the nerve of some people!

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  5. Why were the three drops of ink crying?
    There mother was in the pen and didn't know how long the sentence was :)

    Ah thank you

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  6. Here we just say 'pen'.
    A ball point pen is always implied.
    My current one made it home from hubby's work in his shirt pocket.
    More relocating than stealing?

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    1. Exactly! And perfectly acceptable it is too.

      (but don't mention that to Bibi)

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  7. RYC: I find it odd how British royals all of a sudden got so popular all over the world. I mean, first there was Diana, then everything toned down a little bit, but BAM, Will gets married and the whole world goes crazy!

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    1. You just wait, Bibi ... it's really about to kick-off.

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    2. I know! A new wave of crazy has started this morning... A blogger friend in Canada told me he's practically glued to his computer, waiting for the royal baby to be announced.

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  8. If she has conjoined twins the Brits will be splitting heirs deciding the next monarch.

    -clueless.

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    1. *coughs*

      (sorry - I missed this comment due to a change in flippin' Gmail's notification policies)

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  9. Many appreciate writing as ink to paper instead of console to screen. For those that do, thought ought to be given to a luxury composing instrument to make the experience more pleasurable and actually expressive. luxury pens

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