The day engineers ceased to be boring (in Britain)

In August 1996, British civil engineers ceased to be officially boring.

Glenda Browne, prompted by the appearance of the special Boring Machines issue the Annals of Improbable Research, alerts us to a report about that historic occasion. The AP wire service reported, in 1996:


DIRK BEVERIDGE , Associated Press Aug. 22, 1996 3:48 PM ET

LONDON (AP) — Civil engineers have convinced the London Yellow Pages they aren’t boring anymore.

For decades, anybody who needed a hole bored could have found a somewhat insulting listing. “Boring: see civil engineers.” This prompted many jokes, or rather the same joke, over and over. The Institution of Civil Engineers finally stopped laughing and — bolstered by the 1990s climate of political correctness — lobbied for a new directory listing.

“It’s by no means that we have no sense of humor, but after all these years, the story got a bit boring,” deputy secretary John Whitwell said. The engineers quickly found light at the end of their tunnel. The printers of the Yellow Pages caved in and agreed that future listings will say “Boring: See sites exploration.” The breakthrough was reported Thursday in the weekly trade journal New Civil Engineer under the headline  “Boring engineers walk into history.”



BONUS: Glenda Browne, who brought this to our attention, is sometimes known as The The Woman. Browne was awarded the  2007 Ig Nobel Prize for literature, for her study of the word “the” — and of the many ways it causes problems for anyone who tries to put things into alphabetical order. [REFERENCE: “The Definite Article: Acknowledging ‘The’ in Index Entries,” Glenda Browne, The Indexer, vol. 22, no. 3 April 2001, pp. 119-22.]

BONUS: “Please stop. I’m bored.”