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Owen: In honour of Spotlight’s 40th anniversary, our columnists give their thoughts on the number 40 and what it means to them. In Britain Today, Colin Beaven imagines a life without numbers – could fruit be the way forward?
Why 40 is fun!
Forty is an important milestone. And it’s a number you see a lot on road signs, to tell you the speed limit. I once drove past a sign that said: “Stay under 40”. Good advice, I thought. I’ll see what I can do.
Unfortunately, staying under 40 in life isn’t quite that easy. I haven’t managed it, but then being 40 (or above) isn’t a failure – it’s something to celebrate. Life begins at 40! It’s also the age when drivers begin refusing to move out of the middle lane on motorwayAutobahnmotorways. Even when the slow lanerechte Fahrspurslow lane is empty, older motorists seem to think it’s full of invisibleunsichtbarinvisible trucks.
Signs above motorway lanes do sometimes have different numbers, but they’re speed limits, not age limits. It’s debatablefraglich, umstrittendebatable whether the fast laneÜberholspurfast lane actually needs a speed limit; it’s always blocked by queues of JagJaguar (Automarke)Jags and BMWs.
But what if these numbers aren’t speed limits at all? Maybe they’re telling us the amount of income tax we should be paying. The basic rate is 20 per cent. As the speed-limit signs near schools say: “20 is plenty”.
When you earn above £50KTausendK a year, you pay 40 per cent income tax. The highest rate, 45 per cent, is for those earning more than £150K. You could call that the financial fast lane. Hopefully, it’s full of people who are paying that level of tax. The finance minister certainly needs the money after having to spend billionMilliarde(n)billions during the pandemic.
Or, he could make our tax rate match our age. The state pension currently begins when you reach 66. Would 66-year-olds be happy to hand back two-thirds of their pension in tax?
Many in the younger generation are even more worried about the number 40 than their parents. Traditionally, the pass markMindestpunktzahlpass mark for students to get a degree is 40 per cent. Why 40? Unexplainable – like the rules of cricket.
If you get 39 for your essay, it doesn’t mean that 61 per cent of your work was wrong. Or that one more fact would have earned you that extra point. It’s just a label.
Universities vary, but they all use complicated systems to calculate students’ marks. They don’t just throw diceWürfeldice or send lecturerDozent(in)lecturers down the pub to play on the fruit machineSpielautomatfruit machines. Imagine it, though: they pull the handle, wait for the pictures to stop to spinsich drehenspinning and then give their students a mark that corresponds to the fruit symbols that appear. The pass mark could, for example, be a row of bananas.
Life would be much more fun if we replaced numbers with pictures of fruit. We could reform the tax system and call taxpayers “cherries”, “mangoes” or “watermelons”, depending on how much they pay. And think how much prettier road signs would be.
Best of all, birthdays would become a vegetarian version of the Chinese zodiacTierkreiszodiac. On reaching 40, you’d celebrate your own personal Year of the Banana.
Enjoy celebrating yours, Spotlight, and good luck on your path towards the next ingredientZutatingredient in life’s colourful fruit salad.
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