Obviousitis: an epidemic that has invaded conversations

The sign on the store window said: ‘Ears Pierced. While You Wait.’ No doubt staff put up this notice (sent to me by a Hong Kong reader) to differentiate their salon from those at which customers have to leave their ears and collect them a few days later.

Or it could have been an attack of Obviousitis. This terrifying modern disease makes people feel the need to verbally express things which should be blindingly self-evident to a moderately alert piece of belly-button fluff.

For example, several times I’ve been served packets of airline snacks which say ‘Eat after opening’. I always look around to see if other passengers are masticating the unopened package but haven’t seen this yet, although my seat neighbour on a recent Ryanair Flight came close.

Or consider a publication called the Cosmo Xmas Gift Guide, which recommended that readers give their friends doorstops, saying: ‘You can’t go wrong with these as almost everyone has doors.’ I guess they put in the word ‘almost’ for readers buying gifts for undiscovered Stone Age tribespersons.

Journalists are increasingly smitten by obviousitis which explains why I was sent an aviation report saying ‘So far, they have determined that the crash occurred when the plane hit the ground’ and a news report headlined: ‘Death is nation’s top killer.’

What’s more, many products in local stores in Asia show evidence of obviousitis, including my kitchen knife, which came labelled: ‘Keep out of children’.

The epidemic of stating the obvious may have reached its zenith with the publication of a book of party tips by Pippa Middleton, a relative of the British royal family. ‘Flowers are a traditional Valentine’s token, and red roses are the classic symbol of romance,’ she writes. ‘For Halloween, a pointy hat, fake hair and a broom make a witch’s outfit.’

The tips in the book are so self-evident that they have triggered the creation of numerous Pippa-style ‘pro tips’ on the internet, such as:

1) ‘The juice of an orange can be used as a refreshing and nutritious drink. You can get it from oranges.’

2) ‘Save time by doing things more quickly.’

3) ‘A haircut is a great way to deal with over-grown or untidy hair. Hair salons and barbers can do this for you in exchange for money.’

Obviousitis has also invaded restaurants. Every meal now ends with the waiter pointing to my empty plate and making an elaborate ‘Are you finished?’ gesture with his palm and eyebrows. No, I’m not finished; I plan to eat the plate and cutlery next.

This trend makes me worry that readers may take ‘Top Tips’, the deliberately dysfunctional advice column from Viz magazine, at face value. These say things like: ‘Save money on expensive personalized car number plates by simply changing your name to match your existing plate: Mr KVL 741Y’ and ‘Philanderers: Avoid the embarrassment of shouting out the wrong name in bed by having flings only with girls who have the same name as your wife.’

After a thunderstorm recently I entered my office soaked to the skin to be greeted by one of my colleagues with: ‘Is it raining outside?’ I said: ‘No, I just had a shower in my clothes.’

But ironic comebacks to folk who state the obvious can be dangerous. One reader told me she was stopped by police on a highway. ‘Is this your car?’ an officer asked. ‘No, I stole it,’ she deadpanned. It took her an hour to persuade them she was joking.

So here’s a new Pippa-style pro tip: ‘When being questioned by police, avoid confessing to major crimes you haven’t committed.’

(31-05-2013-Nury Vittachi is an Asia-based frequent traveller. Send comments and ideas via www.mrjam.org)

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.