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Other Writings > Letters to the Sydney Morning Herald — The Big Questions

Sydney Morning Herald

From time to time, letters to the Sydney Morning Herald have asked the really big questions. Here are some of my answers…


Why does Sydney have criminals and Melbourne have gangsters? — John Swanton

John Swanton (Letters, May 9), Sydney does have gangsters, but we call them merchant bankers.

May 10, 2007


Why "apartments" when they are together? — George Cotis

George Cotis (Letters, July 27), they're called "apartments" because, as you lie awake to the sound to the neighbours living happily ever after, you wish they were further apart.

July 28, 2005


…how come the plural of opus is opera? — Joe Dwyer

"Opera" is the plural of "opus" for reasons known only to dead white males from cultures long since returned to dust, the same men who hold the secret of why we continue to fund it.

June 28, 2005


If the plural of hippotamus is hippopotami, why isn't the plural of campus campi? — Pip Denton

The plural of campus isn't campi for the same reason it's two buses and not two bi: declension, as in declension of the teeth, which is what elitists do when folk say platypi or platypuses instead of platypodes.

June 25, 2005


But why does the stockmarket rise or fall "on the back of" something else? — Dawn Cameron

Dawn Cameron (Letters, 29 April), the stockmarket rises and falls on the back of something else because it is a parasite, creating artificial volatility to allow the slothful to arbitrage the industrious while slowly kicking the life out of both punter and the punted.

April 30, 2005


With all this wonderful research going on into the human genome, has anybody discovered a morality gene? — Rod Linklater

As moralists never evolve, any morality gene is patently redundant.

November 6, 2004


Where do throwaway lines land? — Seth Richardson

Throwaway lines land on websites, caught by wit-spiders not able to spin their own.

April 26, 2004


Anyone can be a pundit or a boffin (Letters, March 31). I want to know how I get to be a raconteur. — Robin Saville

How do you get to be a raconteur? Walk into a bar with a boffin and pundit. While the pundit tells you which beer is best and the boffin tells you why, drink your beer. Then, if you can convince them to buy you another, you're a raconteur. Mine's a pint.

April 2, 2004


"Barbie dumps Ken" (SMH, February 13) — has Ken finally come out of the closet? — Zac Marov

Sorry Zac Marov (Letters, February 14), but Ken came out years ago.

First there was earring magic Ken, dressed in mauve mesh top, matching mauve vinyl jacket and trousers with an opening at the back. He followed this with a series dressed as the characters from The Wizard of Oz and most recently Ken as Prince Charming the ballet star.

The big question is how long before Barbie's new beau, Blaine, starts walking the dog late at night.

February 16, 2004


Is there such a thing as a "short poppy"? — Steve Way

Short poppies are those public figures for which we hold such low expectations we can't be bothered cutting them down. They include lifestyle TV presenters, talk radio hosts and anyone connected with Big Brother.

June 4 2003


Can anyone suggest a reason why trendy restaurateurs feel obliged to present one's dinner piled in an unstable stack in the centre of the play and surrounded by a dribble of something yellow?… — Ian Juniper

Creative stacking is how trendy chefs convince you to pay $35 for a plate containing only $6 worth of food.
The yellow dribble is symbolic of their gall.

March 28, 2003


Could someone tell me, what is a "sequitur"? Then I may be able to visualise a "non sequitur". — Len Elvery

"Sequiturs" are the shears used to prune the blooms of argument in the manicured rose garden of reason.

It follows then, that a "non sequitur" is the unaided wrenching of a ripe, delicious, and juicy fruit from the wit tree growing over the back fence.

April 17, 2002


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