The Bic Pen  » Other  »
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  • By comparison, the humble biro, a pen invented by a Hungarian (called Biro) in the 1930s, I believe, was regarded with utter hatred by the school authorities
  • I think that some things have a permanence because of their sheer functionality
  • Very few haven’t done so in my experience

    • by Anglecynn
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      all reviews
      Most people use pens and think nothing about them. I use a fountain pen to sign important documents because it has a certain permanence about it. There is no doubt whose signature it is when that broad swathe of blue ink is swept across the paper. However, although legal documents and treaties between nations are often signed in this way, there are other stories to tell about writing implements and the fountain pen is now something that is seen less and less for often quite practical reasons.

      When I was young, it was forbidden to use biros in school. If anything was to be written down, it was to be written in pencil and, if it was a final copy of an essay, it would be done in fountain pen. These fountain pens had been around since the nineteenth century and they had an exasperating habit of suddenly becoming incontinent and deciding to empty their all onto your only white shirt and school blazer. By comparison, the humble biro, a pen invented by a Hungarian (called Biro) in the 1930s, I


      believe, was regarded with utter hatred by the school authorities. It would make your handwriting illegible, they said and yet, time wore on and we lived in hope that the slim, cheap, plastic pens that we all used in normal life would be allowed.

      Then, one year, the embargo on the bringing to school of biros vanished, as one person described it, ‘like snow off a dyke’. Why the walls of fields should be a matter for description of such a seasonal event as snow melting I have no idea, but the parallel is good. One day, we were forbidden the use of these dreadful foreign imports. The next, a pronouncement was made from on high by the Headmaster (known as ‘The Beak’) and we were then able to write essays without making sure that we had a bottle of ink concealed somewhere in the vicinity, in case we ran out. This was liberating stuff. There were the Beatles, the Stones, Hendrix, the Doors and Bic pens!

      You may wonder what all the fuss was about and, quite honestly, I have ...


      • no idea. You could as well ask me why I had to have turn-ups on my trousers and had to be able to get into the same trousers with my shoes on. These utterly insane rules such as hair being no more than three inches long, for example were never open to debate at a public school , so I can only guess as to why the Bic was banned. What, however, to put the shoe on the other foot, is there to be said for the Bic? It is, after all cheap. It is plastic. It is throw-away. It is (the one I am writing about) made of yellow plastic.

        I think that some things have a permanence because of their sheer functionality. They do not pretend to be what they are not. In fact, they do what they are supposed to do and make no big thing about it. Think of ‘Liberty Ships’ built during the War. They were described as ‘ugly ducklings’, but that didn’t prevent 2,751 of them being built! Despite the difference in

        scale and in numbers produced between Liberty Ships on the one hand and Bic pens on the other, they share a usefulness which belies their relative ordinariness. The Bic pen isn’t a Parker, but it is still a symbol. It writes first time. Very few haven’t done so in my experience. It has a good design which allows the writer to grip the pen due to the hexagonal shape of the barrel of the pen. The nib in the fine model is a good design for someone with illegible writing like me to produce something legible, contrary to what we were told as schoolboys. Even though Bics leak, like any pen, I have to say that such accidents are few and far between and considerably less disastrous than similar leaks from a fountain pen. This is a pen designed to sit in a breast pocket. Its top keeps it in place admirably and it doubles as quite a good tooth-pick too! All in all, this is one useful style icon. If you didn’t have it, you’d have to invent it.



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