Salary Survey Extra: A question of airspeed velocity
Posted on
May 24, 2018

Salary Survey Extra is a series of dispatches that give added insight into the findings of our annual Salary Survey. These posts contain previously unpublished Salary Survey data.

Swallow in flight

At the end of the seminal spoof comedy Monty Python and the Holy Grail, King Arthur employs a clever ruse to pass the keeper of a mystical bridge. Harking back to a problematic encounter from earlier in the film, the royal sovereign of Camelot is is forced to give an answer on the spot to that age-old (not really) riddle, “What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?”

Instead of attempting to solve what would surely be a complex mathematical equation on the spot, Arthur fights fire with fire, and answers a question with a question: “What do you mean, African or European swallow?” The befuddled bridge keeper stammers, “I don’t know that,” and, falling victim to the curse of his own bridge, is cast into the Gorge of Eternal Peril.

So at the end of the movie the question is sort of just left out there, free floating through the universe, unanswered and unresolved. Now, Monty Python and the Holy Grail was released in 1975. So when the 2018 Salary Survey rolled around more than 40 years later, it seemed like, well, someone should have figured this thing out by now. And, of course, if you believe Google, someone has.

On the other hand, what does Google know? It knows what people put on the internet, that’s what. And since anyone can put anything on the internet — including dorks like us, of course — well, you’ll forgive us for thinking the small matter that caused the untimely demise of the Old Man from Scene 24 (“What is he doing here?”) is still an open question.

So we did what we always do around here when open questions come up, and decided to ask the opinion of certified IT professionals. Here’s what we learned:

Q: What is the airspeed velocity of an unladen swallow?

I don’t know that! — 42.8 percent
What do you mean? African or European swallow? — 34.5 percent
42 — 8.7 percent
11 meters per second — 7.9 percent
24 miles per hour — 6.1 percent

As you can see, most certified IT professionals believe that the movie answered the question after all. Although as you can also see, there’s a fairly even split between those who think Arthur had it right, and those who take the side of Old Man from Scene 24. There are also some fans of Douglas Adams in the mix, as well as a smattering of literalists from both sides of the metric/SU divide.

Perhaps like all good philosophical conundrums, this one’s not really supposed to have an answer. Pondering the question is what separates man from apes, right? Just remember, it’s not a question of where he grips it. It’s a simple question of weight ratios!

About the Author

Certification Magazine was launched in 1999 and remained in print until mid-2008. Publication was restarted on a quarterly basis in February 2014. Subscribe to CertMag here.

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