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Home > Culture and Society

Cut-Off Point

3 June 2006

Inevitably, in the wake of the Virgin Trains stabbing, calls for long kitchen knives to be banned have rung out. This urgent suggestion comes from a team of Accident and Emergency doctors from the West Middlesex University Hospital, according to the BBC. Their research, published in the British Medical Journal, includes consultation with ten top UK chefs. We're suspicious of the whole thing, frankly, although we are prepared to admit they might have a point.

Long knives can certainly cause a lot more damage to an innocent body than short ones. But then they can also cause a lot more damage to meat and vegetables, and in so doing save our blameless arm tendons from damage of the straining, pinging variety. The chefs in the West Middlesex paper agreed that such kitchen weapons aren't really necessary when shorter knives do just as well, but we would like to know how it's possible to properly mangle a tough and fibrous git of a sweet potato with anything less. One quote from the report explains that a long pointed blade slices into flesh in the manner of 'cutting into a ripe melon', whereupon our mouths shamefully watered as if at the ring of a bell. Exactly! With what are we supposed to cleave our succulent honeydews in the event of a ban? A cleaver? Will they be exempt, even though you could really do a number on a jugular with one of those bad boys?

A ban would doubtless be popular, but like any other ban it wouldn't be especially sensible. The thinking behind the idea is so binary as to bear hardly any relevance to real life. It's like trying to, well, chop up a large melon with a wee poky knife. Some lives would undoubtedly be saved in the event of a big-knife ban, but the fact remains that if someone wants to kill someone else, they'll find a way to do it. Possibly with an illegally-obtained big knife. The other issue is of course that it's another corner-snip off the freedoms of those of us who are fairly assured of only ever wanting to use chef's knives for chopping, not stabbing. In our own kitchens. Just as we balked at the idea a few years ago that we might have to accept some kind of heat limit on our bathwater because some aparental derelicts scalded their offspring, so we refute that we should have to saw away at our Sunday joints with the metal equivalent of a micropenis to offset the psychotic irresponsibilities of a very few others.

Ah and yet perhaps we should be a little less selfish and consider that lives may be lost in future because of our refusal to give up some small creature comfort. But then this is the guilt-trip we get forced into in these situations. Somehow the problem becomes about all of us and our iffy lifestyles, rather than the aberrant violent impulses of a few, and the extreme difficulty of preventing these from causing death. There's a strong and nasty whiff of community servicing, sacrificing for the greater good-ness about the idea of a knife ban. It's hard to disagree with the prohibition of machetes and flick-knives, but when it's humble household items you start to feel protective, invaded. And sad, in all sorts of stupid ways. Not least for the poor bastards who have died at the end of such an ordinary product.

Still, a ban would certainly keep the staff of the 'Oddly Enough' section of the Reuters website in their jobs, enabling them to produce headlines such as:


1) Man Found Dead With One Of Those Vacuum Bottle-stoppers Up His Ass

2) Man Found Dead With Potato Peeler In Ear

3) Fork In Eye Death Shocks Neighbours

4) Man Drowned In Washing-Up Bowl

5) Man's Heart Cut Out With Spoon - Fictional Sheriff Of Nottingham Main Suspect

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