05:20:04 pm on
Monday 22 Jul 2024

Typewriter or Lathe
David Simmonds

When it comes right down to it, there are two types of people in this world. Them that eat corn on the cob typewriter style and them that eat it lathe style. If you prefer, them that eats it across and them that eat it around, that is, by turning the cob.

How one eats corn on the cob reveals much.

Well, new research, from Nebraska State University, suggests the way a person eats his or her corn on the cob reveals much about her or his character. We spoke to lead researcher Dr Calvin Husque about the project.

“We took a hundred people and put them in a room and just told them to eat as much corn on the cob as they wanted. We observed them through a high-resolution video setup. Sure enough, the people split into about 55 per cent typewriters and 42 per cent lathers. The other three percent are still out there eating corn, as far as I know. That’s not all we did. We also took an exit survey of the eaters’ personal preferences and habits, and cross referenced them to the individual’s eating style.”

These results have set the corn world abuzz with the implications.

‘What we found,” Dr Husque said, “is that there is a very high correlation between certain personality traits and corn eating style. Gender wise, it was neutral: men and women split down the middle when it comes to corn on the cob. Among men, those that parted their hair on the left hand side, by that I mean stage left, were sixteen per cent more likely to be typewriters than lathes. With women, those with curly hair were twenty-one per cent more likely to choose round eating than across eating. Our mathematical models have been tested and statistically verified; those are significant anomalies.”

Just what do these findings suggest? “The only thing I can think of,” Dr. Husque says, “is that there is something in the scalp that is very sensitive to corn on the cob; and that it triggers adhesion to a particular eating style. Of course, that’s just early speculation: we’ll have to apply for funding for another research programme to get to the bottom of that one.”

“But it is interesting, isn’t it?” says Dr Husque. “Just imagine if corn-eating style was predictive of future behaviour. What would happen if we could prove that men who ate lathe style and who parted their hair on the right (stage right) also tended to prefer wearing grey to any other colour? What if women that ate typewriter style and who had straight hair tended, out of all statistical proportion, to wear sensible footwear. Then we’d really be on to something. Think of the marketing opportunities.

A nomination for the Nobel Prize in Agriculture?

The Nebraska corn research community has seen its phones ringing off the hook, with reporters keen to get an interview with a member, of the Husque team, or to snag a critical comment from an able outsider. Dr Husque has appeared on breakfast shows, such as Morning Joe, and late night shows, such as Jimmy Kimmel, to present his results. That is not all: there is a movement a movement afoot to nominate him for the Nobel Prize in Agriculture.

Husque, of course, is quite modest about the subject, although he did admit that he would look forward to a trip to Sweden. “I’m sort of off corn on the cob myself at the moment,” he indicated, “after closely studying people eat it until they’re stuffed, I just can’t bring myself to eat it. Besides, maybe I’d meet Bob Dylan.”

Dr Husque is already deep into his next study. Building on his initial work, he is looking at whether salt and butter preferences correlate to anything. This time, he is taking on some four hundred participants. “We’ve got four control groups we’re working with,” he says, “salt and butter, salt only, butter only and au naturel. Wouldn’t it be something we found that a typewriter eater with a left hand (stage left) part and who ate corn with butter only was likely to be a bad musician?”

What’s next for Dr Husque?

What’s after that? “I would have thought you’d have guessed that one by now,” he said, his eyes twinkling in the Nebraska morning dew. “Popcorn, of course; you’ve got your fist-full eaters and your one-by-one eaters, your sharers and your selfies, your spillers and your balancers.”

Thanks for the interview, Dr. Husque: you’re a very busy man. You’ve made me think twice about the right eating style for me. We’d better let you get back to your lab to look for those three lost overstuffed corn eaters.


Some readers seem intent on nullifying the authority of David Simmonds. The critics are so intense; Simmonds is cast as more scoundrel than scamp. He is, in fact, a Canadian writer of much wit and wisdom. Simmonds writes strong prose, not infrequently laced with savage humour. He dissects, in a cheeky way, what some think sacrosanct. His wit refuses to allow the absurdities of life to move along, nicely, without comment. What Simmonds writes frightens some readers. He doesn't court the ineffectual. Those he scares off are the same ones that will not understand his writing. Satire is not for sissies. The wit of David Simmonds skewers societal vanities, the self-important and their follies as well as the madness of tyrants. He never targets the outcasts or the marginalised; when he goes for a jugular, its blood is blue. David Simmonds, by nurture, is a lawyer. By nature, he is a perceptive writer, with a gimlet eye, a superb folk singer, lyricist and composer. He believes quirkiness is universal; this is his focus and the base of his creativity. "If my humour hurts," says Simmonds,"it's after the stiletto comes out." He's an urban satirist on par with Pete Hamill and Mike Barnacle; the late Jimmy Breslin and Mike Rokyo and, increasingly, Dorothy Parker. He writes from and often about the village of Wellington, Ontario. Simmonds also writes for the Wellington "Times," in Wellington, Ontario.

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