Human civilisation has reached a point where it cannot survive without putting nuts into everything, which of course is terrible news if you have an allergy to nuts. And in our attempts to reconcile our nut frenzy with our nut allergies we place warning signs on everything from coffee bags to vacuum cleaners: may contain nuts.
What puzzles me is not the fact that the words ‘may contain nuts’ appear on packets of nuts, but that the warning isn’t more conclusive. May contain nuts? What if you have one of the safe packets of nuts that doesn’t contain nuts? A real Kafkaesque existential nightmare arises.
My favourite warning sign is the one sometimes found on DVDs: contains scenes of mild peril. Forget the Pythonesque use of the word peril and consider the poor souls who need warning that the film they’re about to watch contains mild peril. Not full-on full blown in-your-face peril, but only mild peril.
How in god’s name do these people cope with the real world? The possibility of lighting a gas fire and wiping out half the town in a cataclysmic explosion must keep them awake at night. Everything about daily life becomes a potentially fatal threat.
There are some warning signs that do serve a purpose. Wet floor, high voltage, fast moving tides, but in Britain has anyone ever driven past a falling rocks roadsign and been hit by falling rocks? Do the people scared by scenes of mild peril alter their travel plans when they see a falling rock sign?
There has been some discussion recently about students complaining about lectures and presentations which contained scenes more disturbing than the ones of mild peril, and have threatened to sue the college or university. They now demand a pre-warning that, for example, lectures on the Rwandan genocide might contain details of a disturbing or distressing nature. The fact that they don’t have the wit or intelligence to figure out for themselves that a subject may be inherently distressing is probably the reason why we need so many warning signs; to protect the stupid from their own stupidity.
It’s only a matter of time before an author and their publishers are sued by some traumatised flower still reeling from the mild perils of the previous night’s film and then hit with the triple whammy of a vampire victim bleeding blood, swearing and blaspheming, their head swelling to the size of a pumpkin because the vampire who bit them had been gorging on pistachios, and none of it forewarned on the book’s cover. The wording would probably say: ‘This novel contains characters who are absolute c***s. Do not read if you are easily offended, outraged, distressed, disturbed, rendered speechless or generally forced to go to the foot of your stairs at the slightest provocation.’
Tipper Gore would turn in her grave.
And while we’re at it, one final point I have to ask. Why do food manufacturers insist on putting nuts in everything?