Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Stabby, Stabby: Henry's No Prophet

     Hardly a ruthless warrior, Henry Petroski is sometimes called "the poet laureate of engineering."  Writing in 2003, he tells us,
     "A kitchen knife is a pretty basic piece of technology that can be used to prepare dinner or to commit a crime.  But no one claims that a chef's knife should be redesigned to eliminate its pointed tip.  Should we want to give up the civilizing effects of fine dining for fear of the occasional fight in the kitchen?"*
     [Emphasis mine]

     Six years later, across the Atlantic -- and a cultural gulf that seems wider every day -- a BBC  article touts the "anti-stab knife:"
     "The first 'anti-stab' knife will soon go on sale in Britain and has been designed to work as normal in the kitchen, but be ineffective as a weapon. The knife has a unique 'combination tip' that reduces the risk of injury. ... Doctors have lobbied in the past for kitchen knives to be redesigned."

     No one, doctors, hey, whatever.  If a civil engineering professor who grew up in NYC understands that it is intention that makes a tool a weapon, wouldn't you expect doctors could, too?   Oh, you dreamer!
* Petroski, Henry, Small Things Considered, 2003, pg. 147


Joanna said...

I'm reminded of the story some five-six years ago of an apartment complex in (where else) England that wanted to remove fire extinguishers from the hallways because the residents might hurt themselves. Better to wait for the fire department, they said. The residents were less than accepting.

Anonymous said...

What can one say about this foolishness? Hoodlums are stabbing people and the semi-official response is... make less stabby knives??? Seriously?

And to think: this is in Britain, where in the not-so-distant past, they'd hang a man for just about anything more criminal than breathing too loudly.


The crowning cherry on top of this sundae is that it took FOUR YEARS to design this new anti-stabby knife. Silly me: I thought that the Japanese did that quite a long time ago.


Bob said...

And guess what? You can take that "anti-stab" knife out to the sidewalk and grind a point onto it in probably five minutes' time. We used to make "daggers" out of Popsicle sticks the same way when I was a kid in elementary school.

Anonymous said...

And are those same doctors willing to give up the sharp points on their scalpels? I think not.

Dave H said...

I suppose in a few more years they'll require everyone to use the same "cutlery" they use on airline flights.

(It's been a while since I've flown. Do they still serve meals on flights? Or do you have to bring a bag lunch now?)

Dave H said...

Bruce Friend: They're probably public health doctors. I doubt they've seen an actual patient in years, let alone touched a scalpel. These are the kind of folks who think a cancer patient who dies in a natural disaster is a good thing because it brings the cancer mortality rate down.

rickn8or said...


Isn't that the country where people just stood around recently and watched two members of the Religion of Peace decapitate a man while waiting for the constabulary to show up and take care of the matter?

BGMiller said...

Okay, I've been getting paid to use knives for not quite two decades and I use the tip and point just as much as I use the heel or edge. And based on working every day with a knife in my hand if I'm going to attack someone with a kitchen knife I'm not going to stab them. Slashing will do more damage faster than a stab.


Robert Fowler said...

A hacksaw and 2 minutes and I can fix that.

It's no wonder they are known as Formerly Great Britain.

Comrade Misfit said...

No offense meant, but that story was dated 2009.

Anonymous said...

Warning: those about to eat may want to skip this comment.
I know of a case (thirty years ago or so) in which a dinner table argument ended in a conviction for manslaughter. The deodand was the fork the defendant had been using to eat his spaghetti.

Comrade M: Our esteemed blog mistress noticed the date, thank 'ee.

Kishnevi nvitiesA

Roberta X said...

EB: I'm not offended, but -- reading comprehension? I mentioned Petroski "writing in 2003," and then opened the next para., "Six years later..." 3+6=9.

This is me, reading stuff and writing about it. If you wanted all current events, all the time, then you should maybe go to CNN. My point was that American Henry Petroski, about as nice and gentle a guy as there is, wasn't terribly fretted by the stabby potential of knives and contrasting that with the prevailing UK attitude, of which the anti-stab knife is only the most obvious example.

Comrade Misfit said...

Roberta, point taken.

greg tag said...

This is the Britain where one of my kinsmen, when dressing for dinner, may place a " safe-blade" sgian-dubh in the scabbard on his calf.

I asked just what a "safe-blade" was, and was told it was flexible rubber and in full compliance with the knife laws.

In other words, the descendants of warriors such as William Wallace and Patrick Ferguson and Fearchar MacTaggart can now carry a "pretend knife" when wearing their Scottish formal dress. A real knife might be misused, you see.

I was tempted to ask if the Scottish Government, under the direct of HM Government, allowed them to carry plastic balls, too. I didn't - Im not sure they would have grasped the irony.

One of the gents with whom I discussed this had the grace to blush.

England and Scotland and Wales - little countries of small import where Great Britain used to be.


Able said...

Knives? Oh please! We had the idiots ban pint glasses (plastic now) in city centre clubs/pubs because they were used in fights (along with hands, feet, stools and tables but they couldn't figure out how to ban those - and no-one had a company selling plastic stools).

(The funny part is we, A&E, see more and more serious injuries as a consequence of plastic glass attacks. Go figure)


I hate to have to point it out but, that happened in Woolwich. I defy you to walk through most of 'London' and find an actual English person.

Just sayin'

Roberta X said...

You can buy plastic stools over here, Able, but I don't think it would help any.

I had not realized the plastic bar glass rule had resulted in worse injuries. Tsk. That stuff'll fester, too, if you don't pick out all the bits.

Hate to see Britain go like this. :(