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7 Reasons That Question 17 is Frustrating

Posted on March 9, 2011 in Top Posts | 0 comments

This is Question 17 in the Individual Questions section of the UK Census.  It’s “intentionally blank” and will drive you slowly mad.  Here are seven reasons why.

Question seventeen in the individual questions section of the 2011 UK Census


1.  Why Is It Intentionally Blank? What is the intention?  Why?  Why? Why?  Why, oh why, oh why, oh why?  I had to go online to find out why.  Apparently it’s a question about the Welsh language.  But wait, I’ve seen the Welsh language and it isn’t invisible. And if it was then the answer would be blank too, so there’d be no point in asking the question in the first place.  And why would you just state that it’s been left intentionally blank?  Why not just remove it?  Is there some sort of nefarious purpose to it?  Should we don our foil hats before completing the census?  Should we be afraid?  I’m afraid.


2.  It’s A Temptation.   While I was online I checked Twitter.  Which is where I saw this:

A tweet from Twops Twips who used to be more the sensibly monikered Top Tips.

Now there are some things that people should never ever see.  The insides of other people; anything to do with Harry Potter and daytime television are all high up the list.  But higher than that, higher than anything else, the absolute worst thing they can see is any sort of suggestion that they should draw a cock in a box on an official document.  Obviously that’s what they’ll want to do right at that moment, with every fibre of their being.  But they can’t because they’d have their tax raised or be sent to prison or something.  And that just makes it all the more of a temptation.  Essentially question 17 is a form of torture in which we are forced to wrestle our primal urge to undermine authority and officialdom by drawing a cock.


3.  It’s Not Actually Blank.  It’s got words in it.  I can see them, they’re right there at the top of the box telling us that it’s blank.  But that’s a lie.  It’s the most blatant example of officialdom fibbing to us since Jeffrey Archer had any power.  It’s like a spoon that says “I am not a spoon”.  It’s not exactly like a talking spoon, I grant you, but it is in the sense that it is lying.  Badly.


4.  It’s Not A Question.  The text above question 17 states that “This question is intentionally left blank”.  But in a similar manner to the age-old philosophical question (if a butterfly beats its wings in a forest in China does a tree fall on a deaf person on the other side of the world?) question seventeen gives us food for thought.  If a question isn’t a question is it still a question?  When is a question not a question?  What do you even call a question that isn’t a question?  It’s certainly perplexing.  It turns out that when a question isn’t a question it raises more questions than it does answers, but after a long, careful deliberation I can state with some certainty that: it isn’t; when it doesn’t contain a question; I don’t know; my brain hurts.  But it’s definitely not a question.  This further complicates matters.


5.  Numbers.  After the lie about the question being left blank, they helpfully tell you to go to 18.  But question 18 isn’t question 18, is it?  It’s question 17.  Because the blank box with a fib in it is no more a question than I am an owl or a plant-pot. This means that the entire numbering system for the remainder of the census is incorrect.  Question 24 (which is actually question 23) says if you are aged 16 or over you should go to 25 (which is numbered 26).  But that’s not a question at all; it’s an instruction.  So question 25 is actually the 23rd question.


6.  But Wait.  No it isn’t.  Because question 11 in the Individual Questions section isn’t a question either.  It’s also an instruction.  So question 25 is actually the 22nd question.  This means that all the numbers in the Individual Questions section are wrong from question 10 (which isn’t a question) on. I haven’t been this confused since…ever.  This is even more confusing than being married to a woman.  And less fun.


7.  The Bastards! And the civil servants/bureaucrats/number crunchers/census-bastards haven’t just cocked up their own census.  They’ve buggered up the title of this post, which is now incorrect.  There are still seven reasons here (which is an improvement on Monday when I spent an hour trying to come up with a seventh reason only to discover that it was, in fact, the eighth and had to remove one) but this isn’t 7 Reasons That Question 17 is Frustrating any more.  It’s 7 Reasons That Question 17 Which Is Not A Question At All And Even If It Were It Would Be Number 16 But It’s Not And Furthermore It’s A Liar Is Frustrating.  I’ve read books shorter than that title.  I won’t even be able to fit it on Twitter.  Does our reader even have a screen that wide?  Right, census-mongers!  I’m drawing a cock in your blank box right now and I’m posting it back to you tomorrow.  On fire.


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