Tuesday, 22 April 2008

Ticket touts

We have some odd ideas about ticket touts in this country. Yet again there is talk in the news of banning their activities. People say things like:

[we see] tickets block-booked by people whose sole aim is to sell on at a profit

But why should tickets be so special in this regard? I'm no economist, but surely they are a scarce commodity whose value will be affected by their scarcity? If there are enough people willing -- indeed, eager -- to pay a thousand pounds to watch Led Zeppelin play a concert, then surely that's a valid price for a ticket? Nobody makes a fuss about other rare items being sold at high prices. And here's an amazing secret: well-known shops like Sainsburys, Woolworths and M&S -- they all bulk-buy goods with the sole aim of selling them on at a profit! Lordy! Quick, to the barricades...

Don't get me wrong: I'm not in favour of what is really quite a grubby, squalid and exploitative trade, but let's please be consistent. Either people explain why concert tickets are qualitatively different from any other good traded in the marketplace -- company shares and houses, for example, which are routinely sold at prices bearing no relationship to their worth -- or they shut up and accept the fact we live in a country with a more-or-less laissaiz-faire approach to business. At least, until such time as we establish a Socialist people's empire (with me as its king)...

Thursday, 17 April 2008

The numbers game

Just now, I heard our dog scrabbling around in the next room. I went in to find him with his snout reaching for some papers I had left on the table (his self-appointed mission seems to be to chomp every piece of paper -- and every pen -- in the world: he's clearly taking his inability to read very hard. Either that or, given that he was trying to eat a receipt, he's in the employ of the tax authorities*).

As I ejected him from the room I said 'I want you both to leave that receipt where it is and to get out of this room at once!'. In saying this, it occurred to me how odd the word 'both' is: why do we have this word that captures 'two-ness' but no equivalent words for other numbers? I guess we can say 'just' and 'only' when we're talking about one thing:

I want you just to leave this room

but what about when there are three things? Surely there should be a word like 'thrith'?

I want you thrith to drop that paper, get out of this room, and go to your bed!

And so on, with numbers for four, five, etc. So what's the deal, philologists? Why the hell is there this huge gap in our language? What are you doing when you should be sorting this stuff out?