Tuesday, July 25, 2006


The Naked Truth

I've been watching more 'Knowing Me Knowing You with Alan Partridge' the past couple of weeks than is strictly good for me, and something about this dialogue from episode four has been bugging me:

Yvonne Boyd - Underneath our clothes, we're all of us naked. Even you Alan.
Alan - No I'm not.
Yvonne - Yes of course you are.
Alan - No I'm not, I've got underwear.
Philippe Lambert- Yes, but underneath your underwear, you are naked.
Alan - No I'm not.
Philippe - Of course. You have your buttocks.
Alan - Ah yes, here we go. I was wondering how long it would take before this show descended into some French hidden buttock agenda.
Nina Vanier - Alan, all we are saying is that underneath your clothes, you are naked.
Alan - (Pause) No I'm not.

I've realised that my sympathies are entirely with Alan here. People say things like 'underneath our clothes we're all naked' all the time, often as if this is some deep truth about human nature. But it just seems false. Naked means without clothes, so underneath our clothes we're not naked, by hypothesis.

Of course, you'll want to say that what's really meant is that stripped of all clothes we're all naked. But that's just banal, it doesn't look like a promising candidate for a revealing comment about the human condition. It's a bit like saying 'if he were unmarried, he'd be a bachelor' - it's dictionary level stuff. So Alan Partridge is right; underneath our clothes, we're underneath our clothes, and hence not naked.


I'm not sure. "Naked" means more than just without clothes: without dignity, without decency, without style, without distinction amongst class. I would have thought that the saying means: imagine the clothes away, and any dignity, decency, style, class etc. you have are lost.
Ok, yes, fair point. I think the context in the show probably suggests that wasn't what was meant there, but you're quite right that that's one reasonable interpretation of what people mean in general.
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