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Konrad Werner: If it hadn’t been for you pesky footnotes

Some Germans think you need to have a doctorate to become a politician. That's just a symptom of neurosis though.

Image for Konrad Werner: If it hadn't been for you pesky footnotes
Photo by Dimitry B. (Dimitry B; Flickr CC)

Another prominent FDP politician is having his PhD taken off him. Jorgo Chatzimarkakis. Okay, maybe he’s not that prominent. Apparently he forgot to put speech marks in his PhD thesis. He remembered the footnotes, but not the speech marks.

If you’re going to forget one of those two little things, it should definitely be the footnotes. No-one reads them anyway. This would have been the standard train of thought when I was at school. In fact, when I was at school cheating was all about trying to prove that you hadn’t, in fact, made it all up, but had read someone else’s books. Thus there was a widespread practice of fabricating books to put in your bibliography.

So I reckon he would have got away with it had he simply left all the speech marks in, and let the little numbers hang on in there. If someone had ever looked at the back only to find that those footnotes were merely signifiers without a signified, he could have said the printer broke at the end.

This might seem like a risky plan, but Jorgo’s solution is no better: blame one of the most venerable universities in the world – Oxford – for giving him the idea. Apparently, in those mildewed misty medieval towers of learning, no-one has ever heard of speech marks. According to Jorgo, “The old dons just scratch the heads when they see a speech mark, and then, shaking those same noble pates sadly, they conclude that this must be something to do with Twitter. Then they sigh and drink some mead.”

Now Jorgo promised he’s going to write another thesis if he loses his PhD. “This time, I’ll definitely put in both speech marks AND footnotes!” How we all laughed. Then we went off and punted around a bit or whatever the fuck you’re supposed to do in Oxford.