Your RDA of Irony


While writing an article on Hong Kong, I made a disconcerting discovery. No reference work seemed to agree on the exact size of Hong Kong. Of course, I never expected any accuracy from Wikipedia; according to that popular if dubious source, Hong Kong is the capital of Kansas and has dated the Olsen Twins. However, I could not even find a surveyed certainty from the Encyclopedia Britannica; two different editions had two different answers. I was left with two alternatives: I could either describe Hong Kong as “sort of around 400 sq. miles” or avoid the point altogether. When in doubt, it is wiser to say nothing; if I had observed that on Jeopardy, I would be thousands of dollars richer. (Hell, I might have won the Tournament of Champions.)

At least, this factual diversity was unintentional. In public relations, you routinely see creative alternatives to the truth. “Who is to say that arsenic is really dangerous? And even if this purely natural ingredient were in our company’s cold cream, what harm could it do if you don’t eat the cold cream?” I once worked for a man who had a genuine enthusiasm for lying but was oblivious to details. In three separate editions of “Who’s Who”–all within the same decade–he listed three different dates of birth. If you are wondering, he was getting younger. However, he never bothered to adjust the date of his marriage. So by the third version, he had gotten married at the age of 16.

Knowing him, I imagine that he is now younger than me; and he got married in utero.

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