Life, the Universe, and Everything

I'm in Belgium and my hotel room is 42.


That combination is catnip to a Douglas Adams fan.

It is well known that 42 is the answer, but the Belgium bit is worth reprinting in full:

"What was that all about?" asked Arthur to a girl he found standing beside him. "Why did he tell me to win awards?"

"Just show biz talk; " answered the girl. "He just won an award at the Annual Ursa Minor Alpha Recreational Illusions Institute Awards ceremony, and he was hoping to be able to pass it off lightly, only you didn't mention it so he couldn't."

"Oh," said Arthur, "oh, well, I'm sorry I didn't. What was it for?"

"The Most Gratuitous Use of the Word 'Belgium' in a Serious Screenplay. It's very prestigious."

"The most gratuitous use of which word?" asked Arthur, with a determined attempt to keep his brain in neutral.

"Belgium," said the girl, "I hardly like to say it."

"Belgium?" exclaimed Arthur.

A drunken seven-toed sloth staggered past, gawked at the word and threw itself backward at a blurry-eyed pterodactyl, roaring with displeasure.

"Are we talking," said Arthur, "about the very flat country, with all the EEC and the fog?"

"What?" said the girl.

"Belgium," said Arthur.

"Raaaaarrrchchchchch!" screeched the pterodactyl.

"Grrruuuuuurrrghhhh," agreed the seven-toed sloth.

"They must be thinking of Ostend Hoverport," muttered Arthur. He turned back to the girl.

"Have you ever been to Belgium in fact?" he asked brightly and she nearly hit him.

"I think," she said, restraining herself, "that you should restrict that sort of remark to something artistic."

"You sound as if I just said something unspeakably rude."

"You did."

In today's modern Galaxy there is of course very little still held to be unspeakable. Many words and expressions which only a matter of decades ago were considered so distastefully explicit that, were they merely to be breathed in public, the perpetrator would be shunned, barred from polite society, and in extreme cases shot through the lungs, are now thought to be very healthy and proper, and their use in everyday speech and writing is seen as evidence of a well-adjusted, relaxed and totally un****ed-up personality.

So, for instance, when in a recent national speech the Financial Minister of the Royal World Estate of Quarlvista actually dared to say that due to one thing and another and the fact that no one had made any food for a while and the king seemed to have died and most of the population had been on holiday now for over three years, the economy was now in what he called "one whole joojooflop situation," everyone was so pleased that he felt able to come out and say it that they quite failed to note that their entire five-thousand-year-old civilization had just collapsed overnight.

But even though words like "joojooflop," "swut," and "turlingdrome" are now perfectly acceptable in common usage there is one word that is still beyond the pale. The concept it embodies is so revolting that the publication or broadcast of the word is utterly forbidden in all parts of the Galaxy except for use in Serious Screenplays. There is also, or was, one planet where they didn't know what it meant, the stupid turlingdromes.


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