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Up The Arse, Or Not At All
7 May 2001
Your arse is the answer to so many of our questions.
Where's my jacket? It's up your arse. Where shall I put this cup of tea? Up your arse. What can you do with that pathetic salary increase? Stick it up your arse.
Yours arse is two things. Firstly: It's the evil twin of the interrobang (the "?!" symbol that marks rhetorical questions). Up your arse is a placeholder almost as atomic as punctuation that converts the meaning of the answer just as the interrobang makes a question rhetorical.
Secondly, it's completely ridiculous -- nothing personal. My jacket, up your arse?!
But such an important and widely-used answer deserves deeper exploration. A coat would plainly not fit up the average arse, unless it was the coat of a dog, shaved and bundled into small bags, but even then only a smallish to medium small dog. Or a short haired yet larger one. Two small dogs of medium hairiness, at a push (but not too hard, or you might rupture something).
A golfball, on the other hand, would. As would a cup of tea, if the cup were crushable, and either the tea not too hot or your anal cavity lined with asbestos.
Admittedly, these are among the more difficult objects to consider, on the cusp of arse-fittage and non arse-fittage. Why is it important that we make this effort? I shall explain.
I would like to establish whether this answer is in general more right than it is wrong, or more wrong that it is right. In short, are there more items that will fit up your arse than things that won't, or vice versa?
We need to attack this problem in stages. To start with: What are "things"? Next, how many things are there and what are they? Lastly, are there more things larger than the inside of your arse, or more things smaller? A useful side-effect of this study may be that we find out where in fact you put that cup of tea, given you clearly can't have stuck it up your arse. Although it'll probably be cold by now.
Things, to begin, need not be discrete objects. A hand is plainly a thing, but an arm is also a thing, as is a person; on a different scale, so is a finger, or a wart. Not that I have warts. So we must tackle the question of parthood.
But for each type of thing, there are many instances of it. Are we cataloguing things, or are we counting them? And does a tabby cat count as a different thing to a black cat? So we must tackle fungability (the brain's assessment of the similarity of objects and their grouping or division) and counting.
And what if a thing (say, a sandcastle) self-destructs on being "stuck"? Does this count as a multiple of things? Indeed, can we say "four million sands"? We must accurately define our terms.
Alas these are too many questions given the limited space, a much longer discussion shall have to wait for my thesis. Instead I shall present a short reasoning and my conclusions, leaving argument for the letters pages of Nature.
As your arse is a point that can have meaning in only human terms, we can shortcut the philosophy and abide by the tenet that what appears to be correct to the human mind is what is valid in this frame of reference.
I contend that humanity sees the universe on a number of discrete scales (eg, the finger and the body are on different scales). Things do not overlap with other things on the same scale, but different scales are completely independent. Furthermore, the mind divides these scales such that there are roughly the same number of objects to deal with on each scale.
This means that a dog is a thing, as is a dog's cock, although the cock is part of the dog (one would hope).
I also contend that we should count two instances of the same type of object as two things. This is simply because we're trying to answer a question here, and given, for example, more small things, the law of averages dictates that the small things shall more often be advised stuck arseward.
In addition, a thing shall be counted as a thing at the point of its passage through the portal that is the anus. A sandcastle will still be counted as a single entity even if your arse does cause it to collapse catastrophically and grittily into a pile of sand on insertion.
It can also be observed that there are more scales close to the size of a person than away from it. We would regard the planets in the solar system as being on the same scale despite the size differential being much larger than that between, say, a head and an ear. This is because of the way the brain stores information. The number of objects in each scale is roughly the same, and because things near our level are more important in everyday life than cosmological things, the scales here are more closely packed.
And finally this brings us on to the counting of things, and we have a handy method with which to do it. If we can count the number of objects on a single scale and multiply by the number of scales, we have the total number of objects humanity would regard as things.
So: Regarding a metre as the basic human scale, and assuming one scale per multiplication of ten (ten metres, a hundred metres, a kilometre going up; ten centimeters, one centimetre, one millimetre going down), and seeing that science (a human construct after all) goes as far massive as it does tiny, there are 63 scales (10 to the power of 31 in one direction, and 10 to the power of minus 31 on the other, with the single metre length in the middle).
We now choose a useful scale to count on, and selecting a stellar scale we simply use the number of stars in the known universe, 10 to the power of 22. This gives us a grand total of things of: sixty-three thousand billion, billion (that's 63 with 22 zeroes after it).
Now we're on the home straight. Speaking roughly, an object of just less than ten centimentres across is only just going to fit up your arse, a little more if you're lucky (or unlucky. It depends on the circumstances). And from this we determine that there are in fact more objects too large than there are too small, and the great question can be answered in both forms thus:
One. For any given object, if you're going to stick it somewhere, you would be advised not to stick it up your arse.
Two. For any given object you are trying to find, don't bother looking up your arse, it probably wouldn't fit.
Postscript. There is of course a much less tortuous route to these conclusions. To wit: How many things are there? Answer: Vastly many. How many things could you fit up your arse? Answer: Two, three, a dozen maybe. A hundred marbles perhaps, although they'd be quite chilly, and you'd need margarine. How many things would be left? Answer: Still vastly many.
But how fun is that line of reasoning? And who'd want that cup of tea after where it's been, anyway?