Saturday, March 26, 2011

Benny Hill, elections and Lego blocks...

  

Does anyone remember the Benny Hill Show? Benny’s show came to its demise when the tastes of his audiences, or at least of the suits at the BBC, became more sophisticated and PC.

Benny Hill came to mind when I was thinking about today’s NSW State election. More particularly, as I was wondering about the origin of the word “election” I recalled the non PC skit where Benny Hill portrays Mr Chow Mein, an Asian gentleman with dark, combed back hair, black rimmed glasses and a speech impediment that results in “l’s” being pronounced as “r’s” and "r's" as "l's".  It's stereotyping at its worst but the clips still had me chuckling.


The relevant conversation between Chow Mein and Henry McGee is as follows:
Henry McGee: This is not your first visit to Britain?
Chow Mein: I come to Britain 11 years ago.
Henry McGee: What were you looking for?
Chow Mein: Knowredge.
Henry McGee: You were looking for knowledge. Did you find it?
Chow Mein: Yes.
Henry Mcgee: Where?
Chow Mein: In Norfolk.
Henry McGee: Why were you looking for knowledge in Norfolk?
Chow Mein: Because that is where it is
Henry McGee: Oh, the city of Norwich.
Henry McGee: Is life in China more bearable than, well, take you and me. Are you, as a Chinaman, happier or healthier than me?
Chow Mein. Let me ask you a question. When was the last time that you had an erection?
Henry McGee: (long pause).. had…?
Chow Mein:  )more carefully and slower) When was the last time you had an election?
Henry McGee: Oh, you mean a parliamentary election?
Chow Mein: Of course. Wait a minute… you didn’t think I meant…a council election?
See some of the Chow Mein skits at:

But I digress from the origin of erections, I mean elections.

The word election comes from the Latin verb eligere, which means to choose or select. The four principle parts of this verb are eligo, eligere, elegi, and electum (You vote for ‘em, you electum… ha ha).

The root Latin word for the above is lego, which means to gather together, to collect or, depending on the context, to select. From there we have lectum, which is today still reflected in words such as neglect (disregard) and collect (gather together). The word ex (meaning out), often shortened to just e at the beginning of a word, came to be added to the front of the word lect, with the result that the word elect meant to select out of various choices.

The Latin word lego has no connection with Lego of plastic blocks fame.  The Lego Group began in the workshop of Ole Kirk Christiansen, a Danish carpenter, who began making wooden toys in 1932. In 1934 his company came to be called "Lego", from the Danish phrase leg godt, which means "play well".  In 1947 it expanded into plastic toys and in 1949 began making the now famous interlocking plastic bricks.

Some thoughts on elections:

“Each candidate behaved well in the hope of being judged worthy of election. However, this system was disastrous when the city had become corrupt. For then it was not the most virtuous but the most powerful who stood for election, and the weak, even if virtuous, were too frightened to run for office.”
- Niccolo Machiavelli

"We stand today at a crossroads: One path leads to despair and utter hopelessness. The other leads to total extinction. Let us hope we have the wisdom to make the right choice."
- Woody Allen

"I like the noise of democracy."
- James Buchanan

"Remember to vote early and vote often."
- Al Capone

"The best argument against democracy is a five-minute conversation with the average voter."
- Winston Churchill

"Under democracy one party always devotes its chief energies to trying to prove that the other party is unfit to rule -- and both commonly succeed, and are right."
- H L Mencken

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