The airline packet of peanuts adorned with the warning “May contain nuts” is getting old now – both as a joke for stand-ups about how stupid people are, and as a mouth-foam prompt for rants about the Nanny State and Health and Safety Culture and Political Correctness Gone Mad and what have you – so I don’t want to bang on in either of those veins.
And I also know there are some pretty daft people in this world. For instance, there are, I suppose, people who fall for those Nigerian email scams.
….Amazingly persistent, those Nigerian email scammers, aren’t they? Dear friend, someone has left you $10 million in their will… They’re particularly keen on Mrs Brit’s Yahoo account and sometimes there are five or six of these inexplicably generous and wealthy benefactors bequeathing fortunes to her in a single day. You’d think that by now nobody, but nobody, could be sucker enough to stick up the ten grand demanded under whatever unlikely pretext it happens to be, but still the Nigerians send these things out, and it must be worth their while or they wouldn’t bother. For all I know, email scamming might be one of Nigeria’s major industries, a key contributor to the country’s GDP. They probably have Email Scamming degree courses in Nigerian universities. It might be considered a very respectable career choice, along with doctoring and lawyering (both of which are far more respected than they ought to be of course). In fact, it may well be our duty to fall for one of these scams every now and again to help keep the Nigerian economy healthy…
But I digress. The point is, that even allowing for maximum daftness, and even allowing for maximum Nanny State-age, I was taken aback to find this warning on my box of Sainsbury’s Family (why Family? I know not) Free Range eggs:
That’s right, it says “Allergy advice: Contains Egg”.
Upon spotting this, I was immediately sent into a dizzying metaphysical spin. In what possible circumstance can it be necessary to inform the purchaser that his egg contains egg? Surely the basic levels of intelligence required for someone to be able to read and understand the words “Contains” and “egg” would negate the need for the warning?
Could it be a warning that the box itself contains egg? You’d think that the desire to have eggs would be the very reason for the original purchase, but perhaps Sainsbury’s are thinking of a buyer who just happened to like the look of the box for its own sake and bought it without investigating the nature of its contents. But again, the fact that it contains eggs is advertised in much larger letters on the top of the box…and of course upon opening the box the rather obvious presence of six actual eggs would surely come to the attention of the purchaser before he spotted the warning about the box containing eggs. I mean there they are, as plain as day, very hard to miss.
So it must be a warning that the eggs themselves contain egg. But is this really possible? Can a table contain a table? Can an egg contain an egg? Isn’t this a tautology? Not, perhaps, if it is a reference to a Platonic essentialist philosophy of forms. So just as a table contains ‘tableness’, so the eggs contain ‘eggness’ to a degree that is, while large, not quite as perfect as the Ideal Egg.
I don’t know. The egg box poses far more questions than it answers. I struggle to hold on to any strong theories these days; it’s becoming a problem.