Sherlock Holmes and his sidekick Dr Watson were taking a ride on the Reading Railroad on their way to Wormwood Scrubs when they came upon as motley a collection of clues as ever they found in their long experience in detection. "Note them well," Holmes said puffing at his pipe, "a shoe, a top hat, a wheelbarrow, a clothes iron, a battleship, a race car, a thimble and a wee Scottie dog. What in the name of all that's holy does this tell us, old friend?" After a few moments of hesitation, Watson replied, "It says we are playing Monopoly and we are going to jail, straight to jail and cannot pass go." "True," Sherlock said, "and pretty soon if the makers of the game have their way we will be clueless."
The British paper The Independent reported last week that Hasbro, the makers of the board game Monopoly, are ditching one of the classic tokens in favour of a new playing piece that "reflects the interests of today's players". New editions of the family favourite could soon come complete with a robot or a cat, rather than the much-loved Scottie dog or car tokens that players have used for decades. According to The Independent, "In an worldwide online vote, fans can choose to get rid of the likes of the thimble or the shoe – objects crafted in the fashion of items familiar to people in 1930s America – while selecting a replacement. A diamond ring, a helicopter and a guitar make up the five pieces in the running to be introduced in July."
CNN's take on the story was different. "Poor pull-string Woody didn't have it this bad in Toy Story. Sure, he felt pretty awful when Andy demoted him from top toy in favour of Buzz Lightyear, that way-cool spaceman who liked to shout 'To infinity, and beyond!' But at least he didn't get thrown out of the closet." The CNN feature on the replacement of the tokens continued, "Tell that to the timeworn tokens of Monopoly: the shoe, top hat, wheelbarrow, clothes iron, battleship, race car, thimble and Scottie dog. One of them is being forced into exile—taking a ride on the Reading or perhaps left to shuffle along the streets of Atlantic City, New Jersey, muttering about the glory days. Not to pass GO. Not to collect $200. Rather, to go directly to jail."
Monopoly has monopolised the evenings of many families initially in America and then throughout the world since it was marketed by Parker Brothers in the aftermath of America's Great Depression in the 1930s. Its locale is Atlantic City as it was then. Some of the original tokens like the lantern, cannon and rocking horse have gone. In 1999, the last time the public voted for a new Monopoly token, the sack of money lost out and is no longer in the most recent editions of the game.
When it comes to new stuff, I am a techno-freak but when we talk Monopoly, I am a traditionalist. It is true that I got an ancient edition on sale in a mall because it had remained there for many, many years gathering dust. Regardless, I cling to my moneybag like Donald Duck's Uncle Scrooge, sail along in my Rolls, use the old iron instead of wasting money on electricity and when told about the replacement of the tokens say, "Bah Humbug!"
I am not alone in this. Lowen Liu, writing for Slate, a US-based online magazine, in an article headlined, "Monopoly Token Will Ruin Game, Possibly America" warns of the dire social consequences of getting rid of "the humble thimble, the laceless workboot, the iron (no electric model, this one you had to heat in a stovepipe oven), and the current bottom-feeder, the wheelbarrow… The proposed replacement tokens? An anthropomorphic robot, a diamond ring, a guitar, a cat with sizeable bling on its collar, and a bleeping helicopter. Not one of them symbolic of the labouring class."
While satirical in style, Liu's article supports the views of those of us who still play with the old tokens and are now going through our own great depression at the news that one will be replaced. So what does this say about us? According to The Independent if you choose the racing car, "Your flashy ways conceal deeply ingrained sexual insecurities, but at least you are always nice to your mother." The top hat says, "You are a power-crazed egomaniac who wouldn't think twice about screwing over your best friend for a promotion or parking space. You compensate for these personality flaws with snappy dressing." The scottie-dog reveals, "You are a fully grown woman who habitually speaks in a baby voice, or the downtrodden, long-suffering husband of such a woman." The iron means, "You are a hip, young urbanite whose ironic selection of the iron conveys your contempt for bourgeoisie values such as tidiness." If you choose the battleship, "You are overweight"; the old boot, "You are a working class hero possessed of unusual good looks and great integrity", the wheelbarrow, "You are cheery and good at gardening, but a bit thick" and the thimble, "You are always offering unsolicited, yet insightful advice to friends. Unfortunately, your irritating manner and poor personal hygiene means they are unlikely to accept it."
As they alighted at Victoria Station, Watson said, "Holmes, I think we should immediately ask our friend Lestrade to arrest Hasbro for seeking to put a cat among the pigeons." Holmes sighed and said wearily, "Watson, get rid of that thimble immediately and hold my top hat while I get rid of this dratted dog that is following us. Most likely it is Moriarity in disguise."
• Tony Deyal was last seen
asking who would have thought that getting rid of a flat iron would be such a burning global issue.