Chris Johnson asks:

I don’t mind Chiles being ugly, but does he have to be foul-mouthed too?

He certainly doesn’t! Over the past decade Chiles has appeared frequently on live radio and television shows where swearing is forbidden. He’s therefore extremely practiced at restraining his language.

Chris’s confusion may come from the fact that Chiles swore extensively in last week’s interview – but the evidence of his live broadcast work makes it clear that this was from choice, not necessity.

Conor Whitworth asks:

It’s hard to feel sympathy for Chiles and Bleakley. Not content with a BBC wage of some £500,000, they go to ITV for a reported £4-£5m. My partner has just lost her job, my mother-in-law is in care and my son’s school is threatened with closure. Is that comparable with the “nightmare” Bleakley finds herself in?

It’s possible to compare the two situations, so they’re certainly comparable in that sense. However, Conor may be using a different sense of the word, and asking whether the two situations are similar, either in nature or degree – to which the answer is that they are dissimilar in many ways. Indeed, the difficulties Conor is experiencing sound like they may well be more severe than Bleakley’s.

Mike Hine asks:

It was high time other species were represented in fashion shoots, but isn’t it irresponsible to use as a model a dog so slim and gorgeous that it presents another unachievable ideal?

Mike’s concern is admirable, but he needn’t worry. It’s true that dogs can learn to recognise pictures of other dogs, as University of Vienna researchers have shown (in “Visual Categorization of Natural Stimuli by Domestic Dogs”, a fascinating read for anyone who shares Mike’s misgivings).

However, the Weekend is aimed at a primarily human readership, and few dogs will have seen the picture. Fewer still will have recognised it, as the dog in question was not a primary focus of the picture, and was largely covered by a stylish jumper! Furthermore, there’s no evidence that dogs are troubled by unrealistic beauty ideals. Any dogs who did see the picture (perhaps while perched on a loving owner’s lap, or while rummaging through torn paper scraps in their basket) are unlikely to have been affected by it.

Julian Smith asks:

Can you print this letter so that Holly Gramazio (Your Questions Answered) has some material for next week?

It seems that they can print the letter – but not for the specific reason that Julian suggests. Since several other rhetorical questions appeared this week, the editors must have had a motivation for including this particular example that was distinct from simply providing “Their Questions Answered” with material.

Julian’s solicitude is, however, very much appreciated! All the same, we woudn’t want him to fret unnecessarily. If he’s troubled in future by the possibility that we may be left without questions to answer, he may find it comforting to reflect on the fact that every Weekend letters page for the past year has included at least one rhetorical question.

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