Thursday, 5 September 2013

Boffin - "The Geek Shall Inherit the Earth"

Anorak, Researcher, Scientist, Technician
A classic 1970s Boffin with a maroon wool interior and corduroy finish
(photo by Srv007)

BOFFIN

Noun. Slang. Mid-20th century.
[Origin unknown.]

1. An elderly naval officer. M20

2. A person engaged in backroom (especially scientific or technical) research, a technical expert.
Now also, an intellectual or academic. M20

Also: boffinry, boffinery noun boffins (sense 2) collectively; the activity of a boffin. M20

We all owe a lot to boffins and their boffinry, so it's about time you lot just backed off and left them alone. Yes, boffin sounds a bit like boff, and boffinry sounds even more like buffoonery, but that's no excusing for hitting them or pinning "Kick Me" signs to the back of their anoraks. Stop it. Show some respect. And above all: have some gratitude.

Gratitude, I say? How so? Well if it wasn't for boffins and their boffinry, we'd all still be swivelling sticks for fire and ignorantly pushing salmonella-coated food into our flapping, ape-like cake-holes. How so? Jillian Clarke, that's how so. This veritable boffin took the lab-time to research the utterly preposterous Five Second Rule. You know it, don't you? The rule that states that food dropped on the floor won't be contaminated if picked up within five seconds. You've done it, haven't you? You've dropped a slice of bread on the floor (butter-side down) and picked it up and eaten it, reassuring yourself that your actions are not in the least bit questionable because the Five Second Rule says so. Admit it. No one is here to judge.

The sheer fatuity of the Five Second Rule is breathtaking, and you can almost see Clarke's eyes rolling with exasperation as she sets out to save us from ourselves. While studying Advanced Theoretical Boffinery at Hans Blascheck's University, Illinois, Clarke studied the validity of The Five Second Rule by dropping bits of food on the floor for varying amounts of time and then analysing them. Her results are astoundingly obvious:
  • 70% of women and 56% of men are familiar with the Five Second Rule, and most of these use it to determine whether or not it's safe to consume food dropped on the floor

  • Women are more likely than men to eat food that's been dropped on the floor

  • Cookies and candy (biscuits and sweets) are more likely to be picked up and eaten than cauliflower and broccoli

  • If the floor surface does contain microorganisms, then food can (shock horror) be contaminated in five second or less
So that's it. The lesson is clear: stop mindlessly eating food that you've dropped on the floor just because you scooped it up within five seconds. Since publication, Clarke has been awarded an Ig Noble Prize for her research and other boffins and replicated her results (because we really needed convincing that it's not a good idea to pick up that ice-cream we just dropped in the car park). Some have gone so far as to suggest it should be a Zero Second Rule: in layman's terms - don't eat anything from the floor. Therefore, join me please, in saying thank you to the boffins of the world. Thank you for saving us from ourselves, keeping us safe, and protecting us from our own stupidityness.

Scientist, Research, Laboratory, Technician,
"Why-oh-why must I save them from themselves?"
(photo by BizJournal)
Are you a boffin?

Do you like boffins?

Have you ever hit a boffin or pinned a demeaning sign to one's back?

Do please grunt in the comment box below.

16 comments:

  1. I like boffins an awful lot, yup!

    The 5 second rule isn't a thing here, at least, it's not something I've heard anyone say (before the internet blew up). My mum's judgement was based upon how long it had been since the floor was cleaned. Not on seconds.

    Besides, a little dirt isn't bad for you. Builds up your immune system.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. As Clarke says this little piece of folklore dates from the time of Genghis Khan (and she's a boffin, so who am I to question that), if it hasn't arrived in Belgium by now, it's probably not going to.

      Delete
  2. Five seconds? How come you get five seconds?!
    Cor blimey!
    In my part of the world, we have the two second rule!
    I feel like I got royally gypped.
    Harumph!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Aww. Think of all that food that you haven't eaten over the years!

      Delete
  3. LESS than 5 seconds?! I thought you had to WAIT 5 seconds. No wonder I have herpes.

    -clueless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oh yes, C ... the old "Herpes? Well I must have got that from eating food off the floor" excuse. Yes, indeed.

      Delete
  4. Unless the floor is cleaner than your hands, when the longer the better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think (thanks to my wife) the floor in my house *is* often cleaner than my hands. Now I'm confused.

      Delete
  5. By the way, is there any truth that the word 'boffin' came from the BBC presenter 'Frank Bough'?

    -clueless.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The OED says its origin is unknown, although some sources suggest it might be from Mr Boffin in Dickens' 'Our Mutual Friend'. I didn't read anything to do with Frank Bough, although seeing as it was a common term during WWII, it seems unlikely.

      Delete
  6. THIS IS BLOGGER POLICE! PUT YOUR HANDS IN THE AIR!

    Why eat food that has landed on the floor? Even if it's a clean floor, it can never really be a clean floor. "Straight to the bin" is my principle!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. (if anyone is wondering why the normally pleasant and relaxed Evi has suddenly gone all Stasi on me, it's because in a twitter conversation I misspelled 'policy' as 'police' and, bloggers being the pedants that they are, Evi isn't letting me get away with it)

      *shakes head at what the world is coming to*

      Delete
    2. I'm visiting my husband at work and they have that plant-wall you were talking about in one of your posts. I'll try to take a picture and tweet it. Sorry for this irrelevant comment, but when I saw it I thought of Lexicolatry.
      Yesterday,I hadn't realised it was a typo until you told me. So much for my clever clogs...

      Delete
    3. Don't apologise! It really made me laugh, and I think the "Blogger Police" is a great idea. You be the sheriff, and I'll be the deputy. Together we can clean up this town!

      Delete
  7. I thought this was going to be a post glorifying geeks in thorough detail.. Like other posts have done.. Yet.. It should have been called "the truth about the x second rule", with a sub title warning all geeks not to get their hopes up...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The madness of the '5 Second Rule' has gone on too long already. The boffins have put an end to it - it's up to us to spread the word.

      Delete