When the panel met for the final time, to sign off on their deliberations of the previous six sessions, it was brought to their attention that they had completely forgotten to name one of the fruits.
“I have here a punnet of this fruit,” said the second secretary, “It has somehow escaped the panel’s attention heretofore.”
There was a hubbub of consternation, which is a very different thing to other hubbubs, such as the hubbub of outrage or the hubbub of rapidly-donned camouflage jackets. Hubbubs of all kidneys, however, diminish eventually, and when this one did, one among the panel who happened to be wearing an unnecessary camouflage jacket, said:
“Let us take a close look at that punnet.”
“Would it not be better to look closely at the unnamed fruit contained in the punnet, rather than at the punnet itself?”
These words were spoken by a panel member who had been conspicuously silent ever since the first session, when he had pulled out of the bag, metaphorically, the word “clementine”, to denote the clementine, one of which he then pulled out of a paper bag, literally.
Sage heads nodding in agreement, the panel members gave their undivided attention to the items of fruit in the punnet. After some while, one asked his fellows:
“Have we already made use of the word ‘grape’?”
“We have. But you are clearly thinking this fruit requires a one-syllable name.”
“On what grounds?”
“Oh, just look at it! Look at them! In their punnet! I am sorry to sound so exasperated, but only a dolt or a halfwit would dub that fruit with a multisyllabic name. It cries out for something simple, and short, and blunt.”
The passion of this outburst convinced the other panel members of its general truth. Passion need not always denote truth, of course. More often it can lead to all sorts of human error, particularly when it crosses the line into hysteria. Consider the example of massed Corbynistas with their placrads.
“It is a shame,” said Arpad, the senior member of the panel, “That we have already registered ‘passion fruit’ as a fruit name.”
“On that point,” said his immediate table-neighbour, “Can anybody explain why, in some cases, we have used the word ‘fruit’ as part of the fruit name? I am thinking of the passion fruit and the kiwi fruit, which you will recall we named at Thursday’s session. Why are we labouring the word ‘fruit’ when it is blindingly obvious that the thing denoted is a fruit?”
Before anybody could answer this reasonable query, there was an interruption from the radio transmitter. The lovely strains of Xavier Cugat And His Orchestra gave way to a gravely-voiced newsflash. There had been a bittern storm over Ulm. Cugat resumed.
“How about ulm?” piped up Binns, “A punnet of ulms?”
“It is tempting,” said Arpad, “But I have two objections. First, the fruit may thereby become too closely associated with the city in Baden-Württemberg where this bittern storm has just occurred. Second, I think we are all agreed that most fruit-names benefit from beginning with consonants. Not all, but most.”
The panel then worked through the alphabet, appending consonants to “ulm”. After a vote, they agreed unanimously on “pulm”. When the second secretary came to write the new fruit-name in the register, he was momentarily distracted by the cry of a bittern, booming from the marshes anent the manse, and he accidentally transposed the middle letters of the word.
And hence the plum.