Friday, May 27, 2005

Vestigialities, and two predictions

Long pointy kitchen knives are a vestigial remnant of pre-fork eating habits. Also, they're dangerous, and British doctors are calling for a ban.... yeah, on long, pointy kitchen knives. Needless to say, the gun rights activists will cite this as the next step on the gun control slippery slope [update: I'm too late]. They're wrong: it's entirely possible that the US could follow suit, in practical if not legal terms, without every modifying our toxic gun culture one whit. Think lawsuits: now that the idea that knives could be made safer is out there, every knife wound is a product liability lawsuit waiting to happen. I give it three years, on the outside, unless the knife lobby (do you think they have one yet, or will they have to get one? If they have one, it's probably mostly about steel imports and patents) manages to piggyback a liability shield the way gun and asbestos manufacturers have done. I also think that the first "safe knives" will be on the market somewhere in the world within two years, possibly sooner if the Japanese get hold of the idea.

[update: Via US Knife Laws. I'll have to go through them later and see what they say]


Ahistoricality said...

Well, if you'd read the linked article, you'd know that the proposed changes affect the point, not the blade, though I suppose a quick reading of this post in isolation could result in a misunderstanding. I don't think stupid is the issue here: hastily written, hastily read....

Nobody, as far as I know, is suggesting that scissors and knives be entirely done away with, merely that vestigial features that seem to do more harm than good be modified.

karrde said...

You know, I carry a pocket-knife. It's most common use is as a letter-opener.

But it's awfully hard to open an envelope with a blade unless there is a sharp point somewhere on the blade that I can use to slice into the fold of the flap on the envelope.

Same for opening some plastic-wrapped items, whether culinary or not--the sharp tip of the knife blade is the most useful part.

I live in an area that is known for becoming deer-hunting paradise every November. None of those hunters could gut a deer without a knife that has a sharp point.

Since I don't keep my pocket-knife honed to a razor's edge, I don't worry about using the tip (with its slightly-sharp point) as a straight-blade screwdriver.

In short, a bladed tool loses most of its usefulness without a sharp tip.

Vestigial? In what sense of the word?

Ahistoricality said...

Again, if you read the linked article (or my post) you'll see that the knives in question are kitchen knives, and that neither of your examples are affected. Letter openers, though, do not have to have sharp points to be effective, and most letter openers (as opposed to knives) manage just fine without being terribly lethal.

And, for the remaining reading-impaired, I will point out that I'm not advocating this, merely suggesting the likelihood that this argument and call for greater safety will play a role in product-liability law and decisions. It's called "analysis"; try it sometime.