In Russia, one of their favourite comedy memes is “British scientists discovered…”.
It’s featured online, in magazines, in TV programmes – it’s always a cue for laughter.
One of the online satirical sites is called Lurkmore – they describe the “British scientists” section like this: “Researchers working on completely insane, idiotic, pseudo-scientific projects that have absolutely no practical value.”
They feature scientists like Richard Stephens, of Keele University, who proved that swearing can help reduce pain.
Or Olli Loukola, of Queen Mary University, who taught bumblebees to play football.
They feature British scientific discoveries like: cheese doesn’t actually work better in mousetraps than any other food.
British scientific research like: people prefer fresh crisps to stale crisps (proved by groups of people listening to the sound of crisps being crunched).
Research findings like nine out of 10 ladybirds carry venereal disease fungus, or why binge drinkers tend to fall over more, or how different colour football shirts can affect performance, or how mini-skirts can extend women’s lives, or the benefits of swallowing magnets.
They even have a segment where contestants have to guess which of these are genuine discoveries by British scientists:
1) The height of Cinderella’s heels.
2) Monkeys can work cassette-recorders better than Generation Z humans.
3) Women orgasm better when wearing socks.
4) The invention of a teacup for left-handed people.
5) Ostriches become sexually aroused around humans.
(In case you’re wondering, the genuine British scientific discoveries are 1, 3 and 5.)
Dr Mikhail Romanovsky of the Physics Department of the Russian Academy of Sciences says he now checks any British scientific paper carefully before he’ll believe it is serious.
So that’s the state of British science, writing serious papers on the most ludicrous subjects.
Knowing they’ll be taken seriously in Britain as long as the language is impressive.
The subject matter itself is irrelevant as long as the presentation has credibility.
But is it just science that’s affected by nonsense disguised as serious thinking?
Have a look at this press release from one of the UK’s major advertisers:
“Today we announce an evolution of the company’s global marketing strategy: HUMANING.
“HUMANING is a unique consumer-centric approach to marketing that creates real, human connections with purpose, moving us beyond cautious data-driven tactics, and uncovering what unites us all. We are no longer marketing to consumers but creating connections with humans.”
So, a multimillion-pound advertiser has just discovered a “unique consumer-centric approach” that will allow them to “create connections with humans”.
Think about that, some of the highest-paid marketing people in the country have decided on the unique strategy of “creating connections with humans”.
What simple, ordinary, non-marketing folk might call “talking to people”.
Is this level of pretentiousness a peculiarly British affliction?
Why are we so impressed with obscure, academic language?
Surely, if you want to start “creating connections with humans”, you should begin by writing the press release in language they can understand.
Dave Trott is the author of Creative Blindness and How to Cure It, Creative Mischief, Predatory Thinking and One Plus One Equals Three