On Lego

At my son’s recent fourth birthday, Lego was a predictably prominent feature. Things have changed in the world of plastic construction. It’s not like it was in my day. First, there’s a special tool now for prising apart those pieces that become inseparably fused. This I feel I have a duty as a father to disapprove of on a fundamental level, the same way I should really disapprove of Ipads and vaccinations, on the basis that these things might soften my progeny up. How is he going to learn about life if he’s never experienced Lego-finger?

I started thinking about Lego. In America, several pieces of Lego are called ‘Legos’, while we in the UK have opted for ‘Lego’ as a word for one brick or one hundred – a neat little transatlantic linguistic divergence. I don’t know why this has happened; perhaps mass nouns offend some foible in the spoken grammar of American children.

I listened to a Radio 4 programme a while back that told of research conducted on Lego bricks. Apparently they are pretty much indestructible. A group of physicists placed bricks between pressure plates to find out how tall a tower you could build before the brick at the bottom shattered under the weight of the ones on top of it. But the bricks didn’t break. They just sort of flowed out from between the plates under the most extreme pressures. Perhaps their hardiness has something to do with why they hurt so much when you step on them.

The big thing I learned about Lego at my son’s birthday party was that it is very much a solo pursuit. A group of six or so party guests attempted to build a kit together, with disastrous consequences. Lego-building by committee can only ever end in tears.

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