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alimentary canal

Many countries, states and cities are graced with a complex network of canals. The meaning of the term alimentary canal is obvious if you know the meanings of the words canal and alimentary. If you don’t know the meaning of the word canal, then you’re not going to understand this entry at all. Don’t even bother trying. And, if you don’t know the meaning of the word alimentary then why the hell didn’t you read the previous entry, which was alimentary.

For the benefit of those lazy bastards who refuse to go back and read that entry, alimentary is an adjective that describes a level of gradation that was added after the fact between two pre-existing primary and secondary levels. An alimentary canal is, therefore, one that lies between primary and secondary canals.

A primary canal is one that connects directly with a main body of water, such as an ocean or a large lake. A secondary canal is one that connects to a primary canal, but not directly to the main body of water.

How then, you may ask, can an alimentary canal come to exist? Wouldn’t it just be called a secondary canal? Well, normally yes, but only if it was not built after the associated primary and secondary canals had already existed and been named primary and secondary canals.

But, you might further ask, if the primary and secondary canals already existed and, by definition, were connected, how could an alimentary canal be built between the two? That’s also a good question. To answer it you need to know a little about politics and history.

In some countries, states or cities, people living at the junction of two canals are allowed to throw up toll gates across the junctions and charge boaters to pass from one canal to the other, even though it was the country state or city that paid to build the canals. Sometimes, those people get greedy and charge exorbitant tolls. When this happens, to prevent the high tolls from thwarting commerce, the country, state or city may build a bypass canal that joins up with the primary and secondary canals at points on either side of and at some distance from the original junction. Sometimes, just to thumb the government’s noses at the greedy toll-keepers, the original junction will be filled in.

Unfortunately, this simply serves to double the problem because, rather than the single tolled junction, there are now two junctions that can be tolled.

You, being an inquisitive type, might further ask, rather than employing that very costly, usually flawed solution, why don’t they just change the laws so that junction-neighbours can’t charge tolls? The answer is simple. Never underestimate politicians’ abilities to overlook simple, effective solutions in favour of complex, flawed ones.

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