Last night I passed a Hummer parked on Enmore Road. Yes, a big, shiny black beast with silver trim helping to boost some poor man’s failing sense of self-importance. Or something. “What a wanker,” I thought.

I posed the question on Twitter:

Word puzzle: Changing one letter at a time, using only valid words, can you turn HUMMER into WANKER?

I didn’t expect an answer, but some people can’t resist a challenge. Warwick Rendell was first with a 15-step solution, but Steve ‘Doc’ Baty managed to do it in 11 steps.


Some people really do have too much time on their hands…

[Update 26 October: If you check the comments, you’ll find that we now have it down to a 6-step solution. Beat that!]

34 Replies to “HUMMER to WANKER”

  1. @Jess: I think Quatrefoil’s point is that even if you do have the resources to buy something, is it worth buying? You bought a Hummer, but would a Commodore have done? The same kind of logic can be applied to many things and in a lot of cases the response comes down to “Yes, I only needed X but I wanted Y”. That’s cool, but it’s still a choice and the choice has implications.

  2. @ Jess
    No, I’m not trying to impress anyone. I derive a certain amount of joy and amusement out of the things that I have, but the only factor in choosing them was their availability at the right price when I needed something, or something being there for free. You can be impressed by my frugality if you like, but it doesn’t really matter to me one way or the other. The point that I wanted to make is that it’s possible to find that enjoyment at a much cheaper price if you don’t buy into what advertising or society or whoever tells you is the status symbol.

    I agree with your point that you can budget carefully and buy the finer things of life, but I suspect that I’d disagree with you as to what those things are. But the important thing is that there is a real value in living deliberately – making those choices for ourselves in line with our values, and accepting that there are consequences to those choices. One of the things that I’m observing is that most people are not making deliberate choices – they’re going along with the prevailing view about what defines success, and then working hard to achieve that, rather than questioning the accepted system. I think there are a lot of opportunities for doing things differently if you so choose, and I’d like to highlight those possibilities. There are a lot of people out there who don’t live ‘normal’ lives but yet manage to be happy by assessing what they really need and buying the things that meet but don’t exceed those needs.

  3. @Quatrefoil: Your comment resonates with me, particularly about what constitutes “the finer things” for different people, and about making choices for oneself rather than what advertising or peer pressure might suggest.

    Every possession has two aspects, the functional and the symbolic.

    Sticking with cars for the moment, the functional is purely a matter of transporting X people and Y goods over a distance. There are trade-offs related to speed and cost and this ill-defined thing called “comfort”. We don’t need to listen to music while driving, for instance, that’s just entertainment. But any sedan on the market can transport four people engaged in everyday activities — and my understanding is that $20k will get you this.

    Beyond that, much of the “value” is symbolic. And boy do you pay for it! A “luxury” vehicle like a Hummer is what? $50k minimum. And that’s not to pick on the Hummer. Much of the price of any luxury car isn’t the supposedly-luxurious extras, but fatter profit margins and seriously expensive marketing to convince you it’s all so special.

    Most “luxury” goods seems to me to be nothing but a peacock display. “Look at me, I am successful! So successful that I can afford to spend more resources than I need!” And while there’s nothing wrong with sexual display in and of itself — or even this perversion of sexual display in the name of profit — I do wonder about the relative level of resources involved.

    How much stress goes into paying for these expensive symbols?

    I’m reminded of one of my favourite cartoons by B Kliban

    B Kliban cartoon: Wasted & Useful Lives

  4. @stilgherrian: The complicating factor for families involving young children is child seats. Our mutual friend who lives up Newcastle way has a Tarago for precisely this reason (two children under 9 == two booster seats plus a child seat for the 2.5 year old). This puts size constraints on people with > 2 children but then you’re getting into those kind of issues at that point anyway.

  5. @Benno Rice: I’m tempted to wonder whether the car-makers see that as a market inflection point. Got more than two kids? Ah, you’re a “large family” so you need the “large family vehicle”. Here, let me show you…

  6. @ Stilgherrian – love that cartoon!

    I’d like to point out that the Venerable Swede does include music – a state of the art cassette player, perfect for all those compilation tapes, and I’ll willingly accept donations. It also has both FM and AM radio, and since I only listen to the latter, that’s a lot more than I need – last I looked I still only had two ears. It’s also extremely comfy, and would fit child seats if I needed them, though I admit that regassing the aircon might become a comfort priority as the weather heats up.

    And regarding the stress cost of things, I’ve made the decision that I’d far rather spend my life making, borrowing and bartering things and living frugally to save money than spending hours of my day in traffic jams, or days in a high-stress job to earn lots of money. If I’m wondering whether I need something or want something, I often ask myself whether my grandmother had one. Mostly she didn’t and managed perfectly well without it.

  7. @stilgherrian: I’m sure they do actually, but it’s not all that unreasonable. I haven’t done my research (bad, lazy, etc) but I think the people-mover class are generally not as status-symbol geared as the SUV class. Tarago carries far less status cachet than a Land Cruiser or whatnot. I think that also extends to them not tricking the things out to the same stupid extent.

Comments are closed.