Tuesday, 27 September 2016

Miscellaneous old quotations

This is a collection of the bizarre, the wise, the witty, and the downright silly. I'll leave it to you to decide which is which.


The chief consequence of setting up the Holyrood parliament has been that 129 Scottish villages are missing their idiots.
Gerald Warner

I asked what he meant, and he said, 'I've had a long talk with a Catholic--a very pious, well-educated one--and I've learned a thing or two. For instance, that you have to sleep with your feet pointing East because that's the direction of heaven, and if you die in the night you can walk there. Now I'll sleep with my feet pointing any way that suits Julia, but d'you expect a grown man to believe about walking to heaven? And what about the Pope who made one of his horses a cardinal? And what about the box you keep in the church porch, and if you put in a pound note with someone's name on it, they get sent to Hell? I don't say there mayn't be a good reason for all this,' he said, 'but you ought to tell me about it and not let me find out for myself.'
Evelyn Waugh (Brideshead Revisited)

Listening to Philip Glass is about as rewarding as chewing gum that's lost its flavour, and they're not dissimilar activities.
Michael White

If I am to discuss what is wrong, one of the first things that are wrong is this: the deep and silent modern assumption that past things have become impossible. There is one metaphor of which the moderns are very fond; they are always saying, "You can't put the clock back." The simple and obvious answer is "You can." A clock, being a piece of human construction, can be restored by the human finger to any figure or hour. In the same way society, being a piece of human construction, can be reconstructed upon any plan that has ever existed.
G.K. Chesterton (What's wrong with the world)

I believe that our Olympic athletes and everybody else in our country will remember that all the year round you show exactly the same courage, professionalism and dedication...

Some of you may have heard of Field Marshal Montgomery and at the battle of Allemagne, just before it, in the Second World War he spoke to his troops.
Gordon Brown, patronising the troops in Afghanistan, August 2008

If once a man indulges himself in murder, very soon he comes to think little of robbing; and from robbing he comes next to drinking and Sabbath-breaking, and from that to incivility and procrastination.
Thomas De Quincey (Murder Considered as One of the Fine Arts)

Nobody can spoil a life, my dear. That's nonsense. Things happen, but we bob up.
John Galsworthy (To Let)

The wanting, and the more, and the porridge.
Two-year old relative of Clive James.

It is alarming and nauseating to see Mr Gandhi, a seditious Middle Temple lawyer now posing as a fakir, well-known in the east, striding half-naked up the steps of the vice-regal palace.
Winston Churchill

You should make a point of trying every experience once, except incest and folk-dancing.
Arnold Bax

Prizes are for little boys, and I'm a grown-up.
Charles Ives (attrib.)

The tumult and the shouting dies,
The captains and the kings depart,
And we are left with large supplies
Of cold blancmange and rhubarb tart.
Last two lines by Ronald Knox, first two from Kipling's Recessional

To go in on an ad-homonym attack in the way they have indicates to me a level of desperation that indicates just how bad things have gone for the government.
Simon Davies, as misquoted on the BBC web site (now corrected)

To me the world Strindberg created is like some enclosed launderette of the spirit -- the underwear goes round and round but the water has been turned off.
The Listener, 1968.

I definitely want Brooklyn to be christened, but I don't know into what religion yet.
David Beckham

Awa' wi' ye, ye krankie. Stop your barmie noddle. I'll tak' nae more of your fancy billy-connolly. Go lauder yourself on the low road before I gi'e ye a motherwelling ye'll nae forget.
Oliver Pritchett (Scots wha hae and put yon bluidy fag out)

'What was that she said, Jeeves?'
'Yoicks, sir, if I am not mistaken. It seemed to me that Madam also added Tally-ho, Gone away and Hark forrard.'
'I suppose members of the Quorn and the Pytchley are saying that sort of thing all the time.'
'So I understand, sir. It encourages the hounds to renewed efforts. It must, of course, be trying for the fox.'
P.G. Wodehouse (Much obliged, Jeeves)

We didn't talk in metaphors in my day. We didn't beat about the bush.
Freddie Trueman

We will not introduce 'top-up' fees and have legislated to prevent them.
The Labour Party manifesto, 2001

People always say: "You're a comedian, tell us a joke." They don't say: "You're an MP, tell us a lie."
Bob Monkhouse

The 't' is silent as in 'Harlow'.
Margot Asquith, explaining the pronunciation of her Christian name to Jean Harlow

Astrology proves only one thing, namely that there is one born every minute.
Patrick Moore (attrib.)

There was held at an inn in that county town a weekly meeting of a festive, almost a riotous character, of a society of gentlemen who called themselves the Buccaneers. Some of the choice spirits of Chatteris belonged to this cheerful club.
W.M. Thackeray (Pendennis)

Simply admitting it doesn't minimise the fact that she is a shallow, blundering, confused, thick, morally contorted political push-over and mental bankrupt. And so, it's important that, the more she admits to it, the more must everyone keep accusing her of it, but even louder.
Armando Iannucci (of Clare Short M.P.) 21.3.03

Enough gullible Americans want to get rich quick, lose weight or increase their sexual potency to make sending billions of e-mails a worthwhile business expense.
Bill Thompson (BBC)

Our national nostrum, Not Proven..a verdict which has been construed by the profane to mean 'Not Guilty, but don't do it again'.
W. Roughhead (Art of Murder)

O Lord our God arise,
Scatter her enemies
And make them fall;
Confound their politics,
Frustrate their knavish tricks,
On Thee our hopes we fix,
God save us all!
The second (censored) verse of the National Anthem

 Their painted faces guard and guide. Now or
 Tomorrow or whenever is the promise --
 The resurrection comes: fix your eyes halfway
       Between Heaven and Diss.
Peter Porter (An angel in Blythburgh church)

 Nature, it seems, is the popular name
 for milliards and milliards and milliards
 of particles playing their infinite game
 of billiards and billiards and billiards. 
Piet Hein (Atomyriades)

"You haven't told me yet," said Lady Nuttal, "what it is your fiancé does for a living."

"He's a statistician," replied Lamia, with an annoying sense of being on the defensive.

Lady Nuttal was obviously taken aback. It had not occurred to her that statisticians entered into normal social relationships. The species, she would have surmised, was perpetuated in some collateral manner, like mules.

"But Aunt Sara, it's a very interesting profession," said Lamia warmly.

"I don't doubt it," said her aunt, who obviously doubted it very much. "To express anything important in mere figures is so plainly impossible that there must be endless scope for well-paid advice on how to do it. But don't you think that life with a statistician would be rather, shall we say, humdrum?"

Lamia was silent. She felt reluctant to discuss the surprising depth of emotional possibility which she had discovered below Edward's numerical veneer.

"It's not the figures themselves," she said finally. "it's what you do with them that matters."

Attrib. K.A.C. Manderville, The undoing of Lamia Gurdleneck, in Kendall and Stuart's The Advanced Theory of Statistics. (Spot the anagrams of Maurice G. Kendall and Alan Stuart!)

Your manuscript, sir, is both good and original; but the part that is good is not original, and the part that is original is not good.

Samuel Johnson

I am not so young as I was once, and I don't believe I shall ever be, if I live to the age of Samson, which, heaven knows as well as I do, I don't want to, for I wouldn't be a centurion or an octagon and survive my factories and become idiomatic by any means. But then there is no knowing how a thing will turn out until it takes place, and we shall come to an end some day, though we may never live to see it.

Benjamin P. Shillaber (the "Mrs Partington" books)

A complicated gentleman allow to present,
Of all the arts and faculties the terse embodiment,
He's a great arithmetician who can demonstrate with ease
That two and two are three or five or anything you please;
An eminent Logician who can make it clear to you
That black is white--when looked at from the proper point of view;
A marvellous Philologist who'll undertake to show
That "yes" is but another and a neater form of "no".

All preconceived ideas on any subject I can scout,
And demonstrate beyond all possibility of doubt,
That whether you're an honest man or whether you're a thief
Depends on whose solicitor has given me my brief.
W.S. Gilbert (Utopia Limited)

A stats major was completely hung over the day of his final exam. It was a True/False test, so he decided to flip a coin for the answers. The stats professor watched the student the entire two hours as he was flipping the coin...writing the answer...flipping the coin...writing the answer. At the end of the two hours, everyone else had left the final except for the one student. The professor walks up to his desk and interrupts the student, saying: "Listen, I have seen that you did not study for this statistics test, you didn't even open the exam. If you are just flipping a coin for your answer, what is taking you so long? The student replies bitterly (as he is still flipping the coin): "Shhh! I am checking my answers!"
Sunita Saini

Sentence first, verdict afterwards.
Lewis Carroll (Alice in Wonderland)

At the age of seven, Carl Friedrich Gauss started elementary school, and his potential was noticed almost immediately.
Quoted in the MacTutor History of Mathematics archive

If there is a problem you can't solve, then there is an easier problem you can't solve: find it.
G. Pólya (How to solve it)

I know that journalism largely consists in saying "Lord Jones Dead" to people who never knew that Lord Jones was alive.
G.K. Chesterton (The Wisdom of Father Brown, The Purple Wig)

The accursed power which stands on privilege
(And goes with Women and Champagne and Bridge)
Broke - and Democracy resumed her reign:
(Which goes with Bridge, and Women and Champagne).
Hilaire Belloc

I suppose if Gladstone and Disraeli were around today they would be known as Bill and Ben.
James Anderson (Sunday Telegraph, 1.7.01)

Was none who would be foremost
To lead such dire attack;
But those behind cried, "Forward!"
And those before cried, "Back!"
Lord Macaulay, Lays of ancient Rome

The chapter on the Fall of the Rupee you may omit. It is somewhat too sensational.
Oscar Wilde, The importance of being earnest

Gin a body meet a body
Flyin' through the air,
Gin a body hit a body,
Will it fly? and where?

Ilka impact has its measure,
Ne'er a ane hae I,
Yet a' the lads they measure me,
Or, at least, they try.
James Clerk Maxwell

Hope springs eternal in the human breast:
Man never is, but always To be Blest.

Alexander Pope (Essay on Man, Epistle 1, 1.95)

Why should the public on this issue believe you, a transient, here today and, if I may say so, gone tomorrow politician rather than a senior officer of many years' experience?
Robin Day to John Nott

Why should a man of your social position and charm and personality have to go to whores for sex?
Robin Day to Lord Lambton

Can I get this question in prime minister, because we're having an interview, which must depend on me asking some questions occasionally.
Robin Day to Margaret Thatcher

     There, an't shall please you; a foolish mild man; an
     honest man, look you, and soon dashed. He is a
     marvellous good neighbour, faith, and a very good
     bowler: but, for Alisander,---alas, you see how
     'tis,---a little o'erparted. 
William Shakespeare (Love's Labour's Lost, V.2)

     The King, observing with judicious eyes,
     The state of both his universities,
     To Oxford sent a troop of horse, for why?
     That learned body wanted loyalty;
     To Cambridge books, as very well discerning
     How much that loyal body wanted learning.
Joseph Trapp, On George I's Donation of the Bishop of Ely's Library to Cambridge University

     The King to Oxford sent a troop of horse,
     For Tories own no argument but force.
     With equal skill to Cambridge books he sent
     For Whigs admit no force but argument.
Sir William Browne, Reply to Trapp's epigram

Anyone who slaps a 'this page is best viewed with Browser X' label on a Web page appears to be yearning for the bad old days, before the Web, when you had very little chance of reading a document written on another computer, another word processor, or another network.
Tim Berners-Lee, in Technology Review, July 1996

When the Times reported that Rudyard Kipling was to be paid £1 a word for an article, an Oxford undergraduate sent Kipling £1 and asked, 'Please send us one of your best words'. He replied, 'Thanks'.
Quoted in "Scientists Must Write", by Robert Barrass.

'My dear, a rich vocabulary is the true hallmark of every intellectual person. Here now'---she burrowed into the mess on her bedside table and brought forth another pad and pencil---'every time I say a word, or you hear a word, that you don't understand, write it down and I'll tell you what it means. Then you can memorize it and soon you'll have a decent vocabulary. Oh the adventure,' she cried ecstactically, 'of moulding a little new life!' She made another sweeping gesture that somehow went wrong because she knocked over the coffee-pot and I immediately wrote down six new words which Auntie Mame said to scratch out and forget about.
Patrick Dennis, "Auntie Mame"

In Middlesbrough the unemployed huddle in frowzy beds, bread and marg and milkless tea in their bellies.
George Orwell, "Keep the aspidistra flying"

A professor is one who can speak on any subject -- for precisely fifty minutes.
Norbert Wiener.

I should add only that, when I first subscribed to e-mail, my system was clogged because 2,500 American high school students sent me an e-mail asking about politics in Britain. E-mail does not solve all communications problems.
John Battle M.P., quoted in Hansard

'There goes C.S. Lewis,' said Fen suddenly. 'It must be Tuesday.'
Edmund Crispin, "Swan Song"

I have been assured by a very knowing American of my acquaintance in London, that a young healthy child well nursed is at a year old a most delicious, nourishing, and wholesome food, whether stewed, roasted, baked, or boiled, and I make no doubt that it will equally serve in a fricassee, or a ragout.
Jonathan Swift, "A Modest Proposal"

In due course I was invited to meet one of the original five students who in 1869 joined the first College for Women, then at Benslow House, Hitchin; in 1873 it moved to within two miles of Cambridge and was renamed Girton College. Emily Gibson, Mrs Townshend, an exquisitely pretty old white-haired lady of eighty, observed, 'I will give you a piece of useful advice, my dears. If ever you have to go to prison take a change of underclothes, so that they will know you are a lady; and say you are a vegetarian -- the food is better if you do.' In the cause of women's suffrage, she had spent a fortnight in Holloway jail.
Muriel Bradbrook (an ex-Mistress of Girton)

It's hard to imagine a single food that can be more aptly described as the essential ingredient than sugar.
From a Tate + Lyle packet

The only thing to be said in favour of this book is its labour-saving, cost-effective design in which a combination of small type and narrow margins ensures that the reader goes blind before he goes mad.
John Naughton (Observer, 1988) reviewing "Hurricane Force" by George Hill.

In Lucy Ellman's mouth the expletive is not a toad but something delicate: if not a flower, then a leaf of Rapunzel's salad.
Nicholas Shakespeare (Sunday Telegraph Magazine)

A lawyer is a man who, when two people are fighting over an oyster, sucks out the contents, and gives the shell to the contenders, half each.
Lord Lytton

The Chubb mortice has a total of 17,000 computations and permutations.
Frederick Forsyth (The Fourth Protocol)

If you removed all the four-letter words which are Donleavy's substitute for comedy, this 400-page tome would be halved in size. If you then removed all the remaining words, you would have the basis for a promising novel.
Paul Taylor (review of "Are you listening Rabbi Low" in Sunday Times)

At lunchtime on Thursday Michael Fish, speaking on BBC television, gave what may become the most celebrated wrong forecast in history. He said: "Earlier on today, apparently, a woman rang the BBC and said that she heard that there was a hurricane on the way. Well, if you are watching, don't worry: there isn't."
Quoted in the Sunday Times 18.10.87

If your doctor tells you to go abroad at once you can always settle for sunny Torquay instead. If your solicitor suggests you go abroad, you'd be wise to make for Heathrow immediately.
P.D.James (The skull beneath the skin)

A man was charged at Hamilton sheriff court with wasting firemen's time after he'd made some false-alarm calls. The court ordered 13 firemen to appear at 9.30 a.m. as witnesses. They all waited until 1 p.m., when they were told they weren't needed and could go home.
Sunday Post, Scotland

This is how Tam Dalyell is feeling -- about the Belgrano, about Westland, the miners' strike, Libya, GCHQ, Zircon, the Peter Wright affair... this book is really just a cry of rage: "I was right -- surely you can see -- look, here is the evidence -- let's go through it all carefully again -- how can anyone disagree..?" But the thrust of the book, and the detailed evidence assembled, are for the most part familiar. Writing it all up, again, and publishing it in this way, is just one more try at persuading somebody (I don't think Mr Dalyell is quite sure whom) to say: "Yes, Tam, you were right. Off with Maggie's head!"

How he loathes Mrs Thatcher. She is variously called pig-headed, a fishwife, and a mass murderess as the story proceeds. This element of personal vendetta seriously weakens his case because -- for all that he rests it upon alleged facts -- his gravest charges rely upon his imputing to her the worst imaginable motives consistent with those facts. One has to say -- without denying that his allegations of facts need answering -- that there is a certain sleight-of-hand here.

Matthew Parris (Review of 'MISRULE - How Mrs Thatcher has misled Parliament from the sinking of the Belgrano to the Wright affair' by Tam Dalyell, 1987)

Jelly babies depicting the Holy Family on sale in West Germany have been described by the country's Catholic bishops as "tasteless".
Catholic Herald (quoted in Punch 1987)

Seen in a church in Israel

Avagardo's Law. What goes up must come down.
When at night most people are stationary and thus using less oxygen the plants reverse their cycle to give out carbon dioxide and so keep this 28% fairly constant.
Aluminium is used in air craft as it is a very light metal, it is able to be supported by air, otherwise if it was a heavy metal it would fall to the ground.
'What is meant by the term "dehydration"?'
If I wanted to dehydrate a plum, I would heat it gently in an oven, this would remove the water. I would be left with a disgusting dried plum.
It is exceedingly dangerous to use a methane-burning appliance in a badly-ventilated room e.g. One without any windows which actually open or one without any doors which would be a bit silly wouldn't it because you wouldn't be able to enter into the room unless being a worm which could enter through a crack in the floor. But you aren't _likely_ to be a worm so that's no use.
Quoted in 'H2O and all that' by Martyn Berry

There is nothing evil or degrading in believing oneself a teapot, but it argues a certain inaccuracy of the thought processes.
P.G. Wodehouse (The coming of Bill)

  My first displays the wealth and pomp of kings,
   Lords of the earth! their luxury and ease.
  Another view of man my second brings,
   Behold him there, the monarch of the seas!
  But ah! united, what reverse we have!
   Man's boasted power and freedom, all are flown:
  Lord of the earth and sea, he bends a slave,
   And woman, lovely woman, reigns alone.
  Thy ready wit the word will soon supply,
   May its approval beam in that soft eye!
Jane Austen (Emma) (Courtship)

Mr Xu Xin, chairman of the China National Advertising Association, said: "The phonetic translation of the slogan chosen by the Coca Cola company meant 'Bite the Wax Tadpole'. I altered this to mean 'Let your Teeth Rejoice'."
Quoted in Private Eye 25/7/86

We of course take it as axiomatic that this [Category Theory] is the appropriate foundational language for mathematics and theoretical computer science...

CUCS book library
Jon Fairbairn, room 208 Computer Laboratory, looks after the CUCS library. It doesn't at present contain any books, though.
Cambridge University Computer Society Help File

This generalization of the projection results provides an answer to a picturesque question posed by the author: 'Can one construct a digital sundial?' It is, at least in theory, possible to construct a set in R^3 such that at (almost) all times of day the shadow of the set gives the digits of the time (to within area zero).
K. Falconer, Sets with prescribed projections and Nikodym sets, Proc. London Math. Soc. (3), 53 (1986), 49.

I curse ye by a right line, a crooked line, a simple and a broken. By flame, by wind, by water, by a mass, by rain, and by clay. By a flying thing, by a creeping thing, by a serpent. By an eye, by a hand, by a foot, by a crown, by a crest, by a sword and by a scourge I curse ye. Haade, Mikaded, Rakeben, Rika, Ritalica, Tasarith, Modeca, Rabert, Tuth, Tumch.
Margery Allingham (Look to the lady)

The trouble with sociology is that anyone can do it. You've only got to count the sewers in Liverpool and you're on the way to a degree, probably a doctorate.
Howard Shaw (Death of a don)

We apologise for the fact that in the title of the Tensors talk in the last newsletter, the words "theoretical physics" came out as "impossible ideas"
Archimedeans' Newsletter 30.1.86

Hedgehogs are handy to have about the home. Easy to store, unlike sperm whales or rhinoceroses, the hedgehog fits neatly in a box in your corner cupboard ready for any emergency. Hardwearing and requiring nothing more than a daily saucer of milk, you'll find hedgehogs fun to use and amazingly economical.
Origin unknown (children's book)

I could not morally recommend weird chemicals, alchoholic excesses or gratuitous violence to ANYONE as a means to mental stability ... but I must admit I'm doing pretty well on them.
Alan Mycroft (?)

Nudist welfare man's model wife fell for the Chinese hypnotist from the Co-op bacon factory
News of the World headline c. 1971.

...when a party of six are seated in a carriage, the chances are that one given person will be next to or opposite to any other given person.
Trollope (Phineas Redux)

  He who knows not and knows not that he knows not is a fool. Shun him.
  He who knows not and knows that he knows not can be taught. Teach him.
  He who knows and knows not that he knows is asleep. Wake him.
  He who knows and knows that he knows is a prophet. Follow him.
Origin unknown.

When one reflects what a deal of harm a bishop may do, one wishes that there was some surer way of getting bishops.
Trollope (The Eustace Diamonds)

  "I see you're not a married man." "That's true: How can you tell?"
  "A married man's a harried man and you look rather well!"
From Offenbach's Christopher Columbus.

To be alone with the girl to whom he is not engaged is a man's delight; - to be alone with the man to whom she is engaged is the woman's.
Trollope (The Eustace Diamonds)

I preach mathematics. I tell them that if they will occupy themselves with the study of mathematics they will find in it the best remedy against the lusts of the flesh. Mr. X was a bad case; he took my advice. He is now busy squaring the circle, and gets great relief.
From 'The Magic Mountain', by Thomas Mann.

  The pay is small,
  The food is bad.
  I wonder why
  I don't go mad.
A maid in Norfolk, 1876.

On a day of bumps galore and an average of six per division, the most unusual came in the fifth when Churchill 4 bumped Pembroke 4 coming out of Grassy pushing Pembroke into the side of a moored cabin cruiser. The cruiser, taking water through a gash in its side, sank slowly.
Cambridge Evening News, June 1983.

What used to be called prejudice is now called a null hypothesis.

"Watson," said he, "if it should ever strike you that I am getting a little over-confident in my powers, or giving less pains to a case than it deserves, kindly whisper 'Norbury' in my ear, and I shall be infinitely obliged to you."
Arthur Conan Doyle (The Yellow Face)

The life of a dashing Cambridge Student is rather enviable for its independence than felicity. About half past nine he rises with the devil of a headache; at half past ten if he do not think it proper to pass the lecture room window in his shooting jacket he cannot refrain at least from sporting his great coat, and hiring a hack at Barron's he gallops a short way on the Trumpington Road so that if any dons be taking their morning walk they may admire his spirit and wonder at his agility. About one he moves off to Lichfield's and after eating as much pastry as would satisfy a dozen Bond Street Loungers, returns to his rooms and contrives by four o' clock to arrange his cravat; after dinner he has either a wine party and gets hellishly cut or sets off in a tandem to Bolsham. In the former case he staggers out about half and hour before gates are shut, rambles about the streets in search of a piece, kicks up a row with the townsmen, rushes into Frank Smith's Coffee house; tells a long story about his father's dogs in a tone so loud that all conversation is at and end. He meets with two or three friends as much done over as himself who pay a visit to Simeon, blow up the whole congregation; break half a dozen lamps, wrench off haf a dozen knockers and staggers into College just in time to escape the penalty of sleeping out of gates.

A sketch of a Cantab Collegian (Sporting Magazine, 1811)

Melbriniononsadsazzersteldregandishfelstelior had seldom been exploited by terrestrial adepts, inasmuch as the use of a demon's name was necessary in those rites binding him to servitude. One missed syllable and the conjurer would step from the circle, smiling, to discover that the demon was smiling also.
Then, leaving the remains artistically disposed about the conjuring area, the demon would return to the infernal regions, perhaps bearing with him some small souvenir of an amusing interlude.
It was Melbriniononsadsazzersteldregandishfelstelior's misfortune, however, that Baran of the Extra Hand hailed from Blackwold, where a complex, agglutinative language was spoken.

Roger Zelazny (The Changing Land)

There are four sorts of cut:
(1) The cut direct is to stare an acquaintance in the face and pretend not to know him.
(2) The cut indirect, to look another way, and pretend not to see him.
(3) The cut sublime, to admire the top of some tall edifice or the clouds of heaven till the person cut has passed by.
(4) The cut infernal, to stop and adjust your boots till the party has gone past.
Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable.

'Son,' the old guy says, 'no matter how far you travel, or how smart you get, always remember this: someday, somewhere,' he says, 'a guy is going to come to you, and show you a nice brand-new set of cards on which the seal is never broken, and this guy is going to offer to bet you that a jack of spades will jump out of the deck and squirt cider in your ear. But son,' the old guy says, 'do not bet him, for as sure as you do you are going to get an earful of cider.'
Damon Runyon (The Idyll of Miss Sarah Brown)

Even the best men are subject to aberrations, or at least commonnesses, in their relations with women, just as they will eat rotten cheese and half-putrid partridges that are really only fit for pigs.
Trebitsch tr Shaw (Jitta's Atonement)

I have no more energy than a shrimp who has swallowed a Norfolk Dumpling.
Edward Lear

Mai Thai Finn is one of the students in the programme and was in the centre of the photo. We incorrectly listed her name as one of the items on the menu.
Community Life

What have you achieved? What have you achieved? You lost your chance, me old son. You contributed absolutely nothing to this life. A waste of time you being here at all. No place for you in Westminster Abbey. The best you can expect is a few daffodils in a jam jar, a rough headstone bearing the legend 'He came and he went' and in between - nothing! Nobody will even notice you're not here. After about a year afterwards somebody might say down the pub "Where's old Hancock? I haven't seen him around lately". "Oh, he's dead y'know". A right raison d'etre that is. Nobody will ever know I existed. Nothing to leave behind me. Nothing to pass on. Nobody to mourn me. That's the bitterest blow of all.
Tony Hancock (TV monologue)

And now, in keeping with Channel 40's policy of always bringing you the latest in blood and guts, in living colour, you're about to see another first - an attempted suicide.
Chris Hubbock (before shooting herself in the head on a news progamme)

Never let it be said of O' Neill that he failed to empty a bottle. Ave atque vale.
Eugene O' Neill Jr. (Suicide note)

" You shall do no work : it is a statute for ever throughout your generations in all your dwellings. "
- Leviticus 23 v 31.

  The centipede was happy, quite,
  Until a toad in fun
  Said, 'Pray, which leg goes after which?'
  This worked his mind to such a pitch,
  He lay distracted in a ditch,
  Considering how to run.
Origin unknown

Make no secret of low spirits to your friends, but talk of them freely. Don't expect much from human life - a sorry business at the best.
Sidney Smith

What Mr Gladstone used to call 'grubous' - a good blend of grim, gruesome, and gloom.
George Lyttleton

... the would-be psychiatrist who, when asked why he wanted to be one said 'I really wanted to be a sex-maniac, but I failed in my practical.'
Rupert Hart-Davis

Nose Tax (The): In the ninth century the Danes imposed on Irish houses a poll tax, historically called the "Nose Tax," because those who neglected to pay the ounce of gold were punished by having their noses slit.
Brewer (The dictionary of phrase and fable)

What does seem likely is that before many years are out, no Maths students of any worth will be coming to Cambridge.
J.J. Barrett (Editorial, Eureka, 1968)

Dr Dougherty ... felt that courses on programming were out of place in the Tripos - they had the same relation to mathematics as the art of glass-blowing did to physics.
(From Eureka, 1968)

A mature potato is not perfect ... but the mind of an intelligent potato would at once admit it as being, beyond all doubt, a genuine, fully developed specimen of his own particular species.
G.K. Chesterton

I am interested in everything that is convex.

  On the subject I shall write you a most valuable letter,
  Full of excellent suggestions, when I feel a little better,
  But at present I'm afraid I am as mad as any hatter,
  So I'll keep 'em to myself, for my opinion doesn't matter.
W.S. Gilbert (Ruddigore)

Whatever his intergalactic ilk, Mr Glover's head suddenly turned into a nest of spinach with one eyeball planted in its midst. Such is television and the actor's life. One day it's socialism with a human face, next day you're the voice of a cyclopic vegetable.
Russell Davies (Sunday Times, 24/8/80)

Flamingoes and mustard both bite. And the moral of that is - 'Birds of a feather flock together'.
Lewis Carroll (Alice's Adventures in Wonderland)

She considered him to be a footman because he was in livery: otherwise, judging by his face only, she would have called him a fish.

If you wish large quantities of candy-floss you should promote heavy industry!
J.W.S. Cassels (Economics for mathematicians)

"I didn't get where I am today by having green frogs dropped down my crutch."
David Nobbs (The better world of Reginald Perrin)

"Ours is the only trade," said [the policeman], "in which the professional is always supposed to be wrong. After all, people don't write stories in which hairdressers can't cut hair and have to be helped by a customer."
G.K. Chesterton (The mirror of the magistrate)

Because of the need to prevent this source of large errors during the evolution of problem solvers that must survive while they master their domain, we infer that the generality-specificity dimension of problem solving runs from ends-oriented to means-oriented, and from continuous to discrete.
Origin unknown.

  Midnight assist our moan;
  Help us to sigh and groan,
  Heavily, heavily:
  Graves, yawn and yield your dead,
  Till death be uttered,
  Heavily, heavily.
Shakespeare (Much Ado about Nothing, V-3)

I am a mathematician, sir. I never permit myself to think.
John Dickson Carr (The hollow man)

I have three dinner-bells - the first (which is the largest) is rung when dinner is nearly ready; the second (which is rather larger) is rung when it is quite ready; and the third (which is as large as the other two put together) is rung all the time I am at dinner.
Lewis Carroll (Letter)

The chief use of vipers is for the making of treacle.
T.P.Blount (Natural History, 1693)

It will be noted that the man ... takes all these pains with the dog ... He does not housetrain the earwig or give baths to centipedes.
C.S.Lewis (The problem of pain)

The madrigore of verjuice must be talthibianised.
C.S.Lewis (That hideous strength)

Whoever thinks of going to bed before twelve o' clock is a scoundrel.
Samuel Johnson.

  See the happy moron:
  He doesn't give a damn.
  I wish I was a moron:
  My God! Perhaps I am!

A mermaid is a virgin from the waist up and a sturgeon from there down.

One of these superstitions is that cats always land on their feet. Now the last thing I do before going to bed is to toss my cat down the cellar steps and I have discovered that by giving it a certain twist I can make it land on its head every time.
From the New York Times.

A person who has not done one half his day's work by ten o' clock, runs a chance of leaving the other half undone.
Emily Bronte (Wuthering Heights)

Wash away your spleen.

A triumvirate of murine rodents devoid of ophthalmic acuity was observed in a state of rapid locomotion in pursuit of an agriculturalist's uxorial adjunct. Said adjunct then performed a triple caudectomy utilizing an acutely honed bladed instrument generally used for subdivision of edible tissue.
Mary Youngquist.

Is the creation you have in mind a magnificently seared thickness of sizzling goodness that has been reduced by grinders of rarest Toledo steel to mouth-watering palate-tantalizers of Kansas city beef beaded with rich ruby globules served on a farm-fresh roll and laced lavishly with great oozing lashings of rarest mustards and onions from faraway Spain?
Russell Baker.

  Willie built a guillotine,
  Tried it out on sister Jean.
  Said Mother as she got the mop:
  "These messy games have got to stop!"
William E. Engel.

A hen is only an egg's way of making another egg.
Samuel Butler.

So she went into the garden to cut a cabbage-leaf to make an apple pie; and at the same time, a great she-bear coming up the street pops its head into the shop. What! No soap! So he died; and she very imprudently married the barber; and there were present the Picinninies, and the Joblilies, and the Garyulies, and the great Panjandrum himself, with the little round button at top. And they all fell to playing the game of catch as catch can, till the gunpowder ran out of the heels of their boots.
Samuel Foote (Nonsense).

When a passenger of the foot heave in sight, tootle the horn, trumpet at him melodiously at first, but if he still obstacles your passage, tootle him with vigour, express by mouth the warning Hi! hi! Beware the wandering horse that he shall not take fright as you pass him by. Do not explode the exhaust box at him.
Translation of Japanese traffic regulations.

  JANet was quite ill one day.
  FEBrile troubles came her way.
  MARtyr-like, she lay in bed;
  APRoned nurses softly sped.
  MAYbe, said the leech judicial,
  JUNket would be beneficial.
  JULeps too, though freely tried,
  AUGured ill, for Janet died.
  SEPulchre was sadly made;
  OCTaves pealed and prayers were said.
  NOVices with many a tear
  DECorated Janet's bier.
Author unknown.

A knowledge of Sanskrit is of little use to a man trapped in a sewer.
C.H.W. Roll.

He whose head resembles a Dutch cheese does not rest it on the grocer's counter.

Do not wear earmuffs in the land of the rattlesnake.

Gloves make a poor present for a man with no hands.
George Van Schaick.

Folk songs do not inform us that it's great to be singing in six-eight time, or that you won't get your dairymaid until you have mastered the Dorian mode.
Constant Lambert (Music Ho!)

C.E.Shannon (The mathematical theory of communication)

The head and in frontal attack on an english writer that the character of this point is therefore another method for the letters that the time of who ever told the problem for an unexpected.

  For as her foot swells, strange to say,
  Her intellect is on the wane -
  Oh, for some remedy I pray
  That may restore both foot and brain!
Dostoyevsky (The brothers Karamazov)
(On the convalescence of the swollen foot of the object of my affections)

How weary, stale, flat, and unprofitable seem to me all the uses of this world.
Shakespeare (Hamlet)

I can count every one of my bones.
Psalm 22 v. 17.

  Go (move, continue moving, leave, depart,
  Proceed, progress, be current, travel, start),
  Thou book (libretto, printed treatise, script):
  Help (aid, assist) those badly (ill) equipped
  (Fashioned) to read (interpret, scan) or write
  (Trace symbols, state in writing): and delight
  (Please highly, fill with pleasure) me (myself)
  With riches (royalties, cash, loot, money, pelf).
Tony Brode (The Concise Oxford Dictionary)

A towel ... wrap it round your head to ... avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (a mindbogglingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can't see it, it can't see you).
Douglas Adams (The Hitch-hiker's guide to the galaxy).

  Oh freddled gruntbuggly, thy micturations are to me
  As plurdled gabbleblotchits on a lurgid bee.
  Groop, I implore thee, my foonting turlingdromes.
  And hooptiously drangle me with crinkly bindlewurdles,
  Or I will rend thee in the gobberwarts with my blurglecruncheon,
                                    see if I don't !

Consider the wild flowers which you can see on nature trails or in conservation areas. None of them are employed in the textile industry. Yet even King Solomon in his 1,500,000-pound luxury home was not nearly so well-dressed as they are in terms of colourful visual impact.
Peter Simple (Daily Telegraph 10.10.79) [The Bevindon Bible]

Well, if I be served such another trick, I'll have my brains ta'en out, and buttered, and give them to a dog for a new year's gift.
Shakespeare (Merry Wives of Windsor)

  I'm very well acquainted too with matters mathematical,
  I understand equations, both the simple and quadratical.
  About binomial theorem I'm teeming with a lot o' news -
  With many cheerful facts about the square of the hypoteneuse.
W.S.Gilbert (Pirates of Penzance)

Self-decapitation is an extremely difficult, not to mention dangerous, thing to attempt.
W.S. Gilbert (Mikado)

  Is this a grasshopper ? - Ha ! no; it is my
  Whiskerandos - you shall not keep him -
  I know you have him in your pocket -
  An oyster may be crossed in love ! - who says
  A whale's a bird ?
Sheridan (The Critic)

The crack like a muffled shot of a small pistol which indicates the official breaking of the criminal's neck ought to be broadcast; when the neck is not broken, listeners would hear the "squelch"1 of strangulation - which would give equal satisfaction to many.
1 A scientific friend points out that "squelch" should read "dull plonk".
Charles Duff (A handbook on hanging)

Who amongst us cannot immediately recognise by intuition that hanging is an art, and the executioner an artist ? Hanging has all the characteristics of art: conservatism, the elaboration of an instinctive mode of expression, balance, harmony in effects, rhythm, tone; and effect.

The Oxford undergraduate leaves Oxford thinking he owns the world; the Cambridge undergraduate leaves Cambridge not caring who owns it.
Sir Max Beerbohm

Examples of the effect of channel errors on textual transmission
(i) Deletion, e.g. "The Prime Minister spent the weekend in the country shooting peasants."
(ii) Insertion, e.g. "The walkway across the trout hatchery was supported on concrete breams"
(iii) Alteration, e.g. "Say it with glowers", "For sale : Volvo 144 with overdrive, fuel infection, etc."
(iv) Transposition, e.g. "Yet, down the road, you will still find the corner shop where the lady behind the counter will lovingly warp your presents."
(v) Nonsense, e.g. "The benefits of pollution treatment are oozelumny gzzr dny32~m"
S.M.Moss (Ph.D. thesis)

That's rather a revolting-looking building. Trinity Hall, isn't it ?
A tourist, seeing the Wren Library.

Beavers, even voluble beavers, didn't say 'Jesus wept' and 'Bloody Hell', not if they wanted to get into print as children's bestsellers.
Tom Sharpe (The Great Pursuit)

Headline (Cambridge Evening News 25/10/75)

  Sing me your song, oh !
  It is sung to the moon, by a love-lorn loon....
W.S.Gilbert (Yeomen of the guard)

I can trace my ancestry back to a proto-plasmal primordial atomic globule. Consequently, my family pride is something inconceivable.
W.S.Gilbert (Mikado)

...he put a monument over it with an inscription on one side: 'Here lies the leg of the collegiate secretary Lebedyev', and on the other: 'Rest beloved ashes, till the dawn of a happy resurrection', and that he had a service read over it every year...
Dostoyevsky (The Idiot)

"You have wronged me, and in revenge I've come to cut my stomach open before you."

A third case worthy of note is that of Isadora Persano, the well-known journalist and duellist, who was found stark staring mad with a matchbox in front of him which contained a remarkable worm, said to be unknown to science.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (Thor Bridge)

The source of these outrages is known and if they are repeated I have Mr. Holmes's authority for saying that the whole story concerning the politician, the lighthouse and the trained cormorant will be given to the public. There is at least one reader who will understand.
Sir Arthur Conan Doyle (The veiled lady)

A man receives an average of ten letters each day. On a certain day he receives no mail and wonders if it is a holiday. To decide this, he computes the probability that in ten years he would have at least one day without any mail.
Problem in 'Finite mathematical structures' - J.G.Kemeny et al.

Some things can't be ravished. You can't ravish a tin of sardines.
D.H.Lawrence (Lady Chatterley's Lover)

A contribution to the Mathematical theory of Big Game Hunting
4.The Bolzano-Weierstrass method.
Bisect the desert by a line running N-S. The lion is either in the E portion or the W portion; let us suppose him to be in the W portion. Bisect this portion by a line running E-W. The lion is either in the N portion or the S portion; let us suppose him to be in the N portion. We continue the process indefinitely, constructing a sufficiently strong fence about the chosen portion at each step. The diameter of the chosen portions approaches zero, so that the lion is ultimately surrounded by a fence of arbitrarily small perimeter.
19.The Schrodinger method.
At any given moment there is a positive probability that there is a lion in the cage. Sit down and wait.
9a. The Eratosthenian method.
We enumerate the objects in the desert and then examine them one-by-one, discarding all those which are not lions. By a refinement of this method, we can ensure that only prime lions are captured.
H.Petard (Eureka 16)

...lunatics; they reason, in fact they often reason with great acuteness, like the mad don who thought the don underneath was trying to shoot him through the floor, and consequently always sat on the table until at last he grew to believe that he was a teapot.
R.A.Knox (The Hidden Stream)

Le Jaseroque

  Il brilgue: les toves lubricilleux
  Se gyrent en vrillant dans le guave
  Enmime's sont les gougebosquex
  Et le momerade horsgrave.
F.L.Worrin after Lewis Carroll

I do account this world a tedious theatre, For I do play a part in't 'gainst my will.
John Webster (The Duchess of Malfi)

I did impeticos thy gratillity.
Shakespeare (Twelfth Night)

In sooth, thou wast in very gracious fooling last night, when thou spokest of Pigrogromitus, of the Vapians passing the equinoctial of Queuebus.

You can almost define an analyst as a mathematician who doesn't mind missing his lunch as long as he can prove it exists.
Dr.Woodall (Combinatorics seminar 26/4/79)

Whenever he found out a new thing about a triangle Pythagoras who had no shame jumped out of his bath and shouted 'Q.E.D.' through the streets of athens its a wonder they never locked him up.
Geoffrey Willans and Ronald Searle (Down with skool !)

Simulant - Something that doesn't exist but pretends to.
Stanislaw Lem (Futurological Congress)

The B flat major sonata ... was another work of which Beethoven thought a great deal. He said it 'had washed itself' (hat sich gewaschen), which, as Sir Donald Tovey suggests, might be freely translated into 'takes the cake' or regarded as akin to Stevenson's proud announcement that The Master of Ballantrae was 'a howling cheese'.
Eric Blom (Beethoven's Piano Sonatas Discussed)

  There is Pleasure sure,
  In being Mad, which none but Madmen know !
John Dryden (The Spanish Friar)

  I am not yet born; O hear me
  Let not the blood-sucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the
 club-footed ghoul come near me.
Louis MacNeice

You may look upon life as an unprofitable episode, disturbing the blessed calm of non-existence.

All here is gloomy. A faint struggle with the tediousness of time, a doleful confession of present misery, and the approach, seen and felt, of what is most dreaded and most shunned; but such is the lot of man.
Dr. Johnson

One often falls in love with a woman out of boredom; one does not know what else to do with her.
Jean Paul Richter

All my misfortunes come from having thought too well of my fellows.
Jean Jacques Rousseau

The thought of suicide is a great consolation; by means of it one gets through many a bad night.

Youth is a blunder; manhood a struggle; old age a regret.

Pangle could be a local variation of pightle, meaning a small meadow or paddock. Or it could have something to do with pample, meaning to tread lightly. We also have "pungled" (shrivelled) and "pingle" (to pick at one's food), but these do not seem to help with the Pangle.
Eric Fowler (Jonathan Mardle)

  V: Oculi omnium in te sperant, Domine
  R: Et tu das escam illis in tempore,
  V: Aperis manum tuam,
  R: Et imples omne animal benedictione.
  V: Gloria Patri, et Filio, et Spiritui Sancto,
  R: Sicut erat in principio, nunc est,
     Et erit in saecula saeculorum.
  V: Benedic, Domine, nos et dona tua,
     Quae de largitate tua sumus sumpturi,
     Et concede ut illis salubriter nutriti,
     Tibi debitum obsequium praestare valeamus,
     Per Christum Dominum nostrum.
Grace, Trinity College.

  On the lake
  Like a cake
  Of soap.
  Why is the swan
  On the lake ?
  He has abandoned hope.
Stevie Smith (The bereaved swan)

  Whip me ye devils,
  From the possession of this heavenly sight !
  Blow me about in winds ! roast me in sulphur !
  Wash me in steep-down gulfs of liquid fire !
Shakespeare (Othello)

PANGLE In the parish of Wereham is one of those fenny badly-drained pieces of land, which are usually called 'labours in vain' from all attempts to turn them to profitable uses being ineffectual; this is called the Pangle.
W.Rye (Glossary of words used in East Anglia)

After all, one can't complain. I have my friends. Somebody spoke to me only yesterday. And was it last week or the week before that Rabbit bumped into me and said 'Bother !' The Social Round. Always something going on.
A.A.Milne (Winnie-the-Pooh)

  Blow, winds and crack your cheeks ! rage ! blow !
  You cataracts and hurricanoes, spout
  Till you have drenched our steeples, drowned the cocks !
  You sulphurous and thought-executing fires,
  Vaunt-couriers to oak-cleaving thunderbolts,
  Singe my white head ! And thou, all-shaking thunder
  Strike flat the thick rotundity o' the world !
  Crack nature's moulds, all germens spill at once
  That make ingrateful man !
Shakespeare (King Lear)

I hate his nasty insinuendos.
Samuel Butler (The way of all flesh)

A sofa, of incomprehensible form regarded from any sofane point of view.
Dickens (The uncommercial traveller)

If I hadn't played chess, I would have been a mathematician. What a bore that would have been !
David Levy.

Rich folk may ride on camels but it ain't so easy for 'em to see out of a needle's eye.
Dickens (Martin Chuzzlewit) [Mrs. Gamp]

Go to, you're a dry fool.
Shakespeare (Twelfth Night)

  There's nothing in this world can make me joy:
  Life is as tedious as a twice-told tale,
  Vexing the dull ear of a drowsy man;
  And bitter shame hath spoilt the sweet world's taste,
  That it yields nothing but shame and bitterness.
Shakespeare (King John)

It is not, indeed, a book to be read through from cover to cover at all, except by those wishing to be pole-axed in the interests of science by a tedium so monumental as to be entirely without precedent in the history of fiction.
N.F.Simpson (Harry Bleachbaker) [Sleeve note]

This is an uneven book, parts of it having been made more boring than was in itself strictly necessary in order to highlight those other parts which are less so.
Ibid [Author's note]

  Ode to David Hilbert
  The drab, livid
  Bad live third,
  Bid diver halt
  The valid bird.
Vassar Seminar (Amer. Math. Monthly 85/8)

The human body, if properly cared for, can last a lifetime.
Unknown origin.

The pancreas looked like a strangled football sock dipped in old batter. It was apparently supposed to. Oh.
Russell Davies (Sunday Times 12/11/78)

  If you are sitting at a grand table,
  do not lick your lips and exclaim, 'What a spread !'
  Remember, it is a vice to have a greedy eye.
  There is no greater evil in creation than the eye;
  that is why it must shed tears at every turn.
  Do not reach for everything you see,
  or jostle your fellow-guest at the dish;
  judge his feelings by your own
  and always behave considerately.
  Eat what is set before you like a gentleman;
  do not munch and make yourself objectionable.
  Be the first to stop for good manners' sake
  and do not be insatiable, or you will give offence.
  If you are dining in a large company,
  do not reach out your hand before others.
  A man of good upbringing is content with little,
  and he is not short of breath when he goes to bed.
  The moderate eater enjoys heavy sleep;
  he rises early, feeling refreshed.
  But sleeplessness, indigestion, and colic
  are the lot of the glutton.
  If you cannot avoid overeating at a feast,
  leave the table and find relief by vomiting.
Ecclesiasticus 31 : 12-21.

  O, let us howl, some heavy note,
  Some deadly dogged howl,
  Sounding as from the threatening throat,
  Of beasts and fatal fowl !
  As ravens, screech-owls, bulls, and bears,
  We'll bill and bawl our parts,
  Till irksome noise have cloy'd your ears
  And corrosiv'd your hearts.
  At last when as our choir wants breath,
  Our bodies being blest,
  We'll sing like swans, to welcome death,
  And die in love and rest.
John Webster (Duchess of Malfi, Madman's song)

Every man has his own ways of courting the female sex. I should not, myself, choose to do it with photographs of spleens, diseased or otherwise.
Agatha Christie (The Moving Finger)

  Guns aren't lawful;
  Nooses give;
  Gas smells awful:
  You might as well live.
Dorothy Parker

Brains need gentle handling, or they are apt to disintegrate.
Jocasta Innes (The Pauper's Cookbook)

Brains are a taste worth cultivating.

There are three things I always forget. Names, faces and - the third I can't remember.
Italo Svevo.

Suicide is the sincerest form of self-criticism.
Anon (graffito)

In my opinion the best way is to take a dead fish and make it rigid.
Prof. Sir James Lighthill (overheard)

  There was an old Russian called Lenin
  Who did one or two million men in.
  That's a lot to have done in,
  But, where he did one in,
  That old Russian Stalin did ten in.
Victor Gray

A curious thing about the ontological problem is its simplicity. It can be put in three Anglo-Saxon monosyllables: 'What is there?' It can be answered, moreover, in a word - 'Everything'.
W. Van Orman Quine.

I wouldn't have said off-hand that I had a subconscious mind, but I suppose I must without knowing it.
P.G.Wodehouse (Right Ho Jeeves)

  They have mouths and speak not:
  eyes have they, and see not.
  They have ears, and hear not:
  noses have they, and smell not.
Psalm 115 (referring to idols)

All political societies are subversive. Must be. Stands to reason. Wouldn't exist if they weren't trying to subvert something or other.
Tom Sharpe (Porterhouse Blue)

It is transparently obvious to any scholar that William Shakespeare's plays were written not by William Shakespeare, but by another author of the same name.
Patrick Moore (Can you speak Venusian ?)

Mathematicians are fatuous.
Strutter (True happiness)

  If I were a cassowary
  On the plains of Timbuctoo,
  I would eat a missionary,
  Cassock, bands and hymn-book too.
Bishop Samuel Wilberforce.

Choose your companions carefully, you may have to eat them...
W.C.Sellar, R.J.Yeatman (And now all this)

You'll be the tenth rat this week to have his brains sucked out by a pneumatic tube.
William Kotzwinkle (Doctor Rat)

Erasmus Darwin had a theory that once in a while one should perform a damn-fool experiment. It almost always fails, but when it does come off is terrific.
Darwin played the trombone to his tulips. The result of this particular experiment was negative.
J.E.Littlewood (A mathematician's miscellany)

  How soon the servant sun,
  (Sir morrow mark),
  Can time unriddle, and the cupboard stone,
  (Fog has a bone
  He'll trumpet into meat),
  Unshelve that all my gristles have a gown
  And the naked egg stand straight.
Dylan Thomas (Poem)

I see no ships by holding the telescope to my blind eye with my missing arm.
Peter Pook (after Nelson) (Pook's China Doll)

'Hallo !' says the baggy 'you seem to have got somebody's arm in your box'
'So I have,' says Chapman, 'I expect it's my wife's. Careless woman ! Must have dropped it in when she was packing the box.'
R. Austin Freeman (Pandora's box)

"Really ?" said Setoc, "What was this security on which they refused you this sum ?"
"My Aunt's corpse," replied the Egyptian, "She was the finest woman in Egypt. She used to go everywhere with me. She died on the way here, and I turned her into one of the most splendid mummies in the country. Back home I should be able to pawn her for any sum I wished.
Voltaire (Zadig)

I should as soon think of tickling a porcupine.
R. Austin Freeman (The Old Lag)

A French politician representing a somewhat backward district in Africa was some time ago found to have been eaten by his constituents. The journalist who discovered this used the phrase: 'Je crois qu'il a passe par la casserole' (I think he ended up in a casserole). Clearly the Africans knew what they were about. For making a delicious meal out of tough and intractable material, the casserole has no rival.
Katherine Whitehorn (Cooking in a Bedsitter)

I was not sleeping, nor what a person would term correctly, dozing. I was more what a person would strictly call watching with my eyes closed.
Dickens (Little Dorrit)

You will find it serviceable, in the formation of a demeanour, if you sometimes say to yourself in company - on entering a room, for instance - Papa, potatoes, poultry, prunes and prism, prunes and prism.

Enter a messenger, with two heads and a hand.
Shakespeare (Titus Andronicus)

  Bludgeoned to despair
  I lie deranged
  in a cell whose very walls rebound
  th echoes of remorse.
  Whilst from my heart
  the overflowing tears
  decry the hellish path that
  brought me here.
  What blundering fool am I to slip
  like Eve within the trough of guilt ?
  Is there no other man who knows,
  the torment, such as I
  of life.
  Yet life in Hell.
L. Moelwyn-Hughes (Cambridge Evening News 21/9/77)

The following is taken from a United States newspaper of October 1935: 'At Lawton, Oklahama, John Brett, an attorney, sang "Home Sweet Home" to a jury so as to induce clemency for his client, Lloyd Grable, a bank robber. The jury responded with a verdict of life imprisonment for Mr. Grable.'
P.A.Scholes (Oxford Companion to Music: Home Sweet Home)

  Do not pry into things too hard for you
  Or examine what is beyond your reach.
  Meditate on the commandments you have been given;
  What the Lord keeps secret is no concern of yours.
  Do not busy yourself with matters that are beyond you;
  Even what has been shown you is above man's grasp.
  Many have been led astray by their speculations,
  And false conjectures have impaired their judgement.
Ecclesiasticus 3 21-24

For whom all things are possible: The supremely intelligent child; a psychagogic pandect.
Pat Gunkel (Book title)

As I made the mesmeric passes amid ejaculations of "dead! dead !" absolutely bursting from the tongue and not from the lips of the sufferer, his whole frame at once - within the space of a single minute, or even less, shrunk - crumbled - absolutely rotted away, beneath my hands. Upon the bed, before that whole company, there lay a nearly liquid mass of loathsome - of detestable putridity.
E.A.Poe (The facts in the case of M.Valdemar)

  There was never yet philosopher
  That could endure the toothache patiently.
Shakespeare (Much Ado about Nothing)

  They brought one Pinch, a hungry lean-faced villain,
  A mere anatomy, a mountebank,
  A threadbare juggler, and a fortune teller,
  A needy hollow-eyed, sharp-looking wretch,
  A living-dead man.
Shakespeare (Comedy of Errors)

I suppose if the scruples I've overcome in my time were laid end to end they would reach from London to Glasgow.
P.G.Wodehouse (Service with a smile)

  Hark ! villains, I will grind your bones to dust,
  And with your blood and it I'll make a paste;
  And of the paste a coffin I will rear,
  And make two pasties of your shameful heads;
  And bid that strumpet, your unhallow'd dam,
  Like to the earth to swallow her own increase.
  This is the feast that I have bid her to,
  And this the banquet she shall surfeit on;
  Why there they are both, baked in that pie;
  Whereof their mother daintily hath fed,
  Eating the flesh that she herself hath bred.
Shakespeare (Titus Andronicus)

  Mistress, I dug upon your grave
  To bury a bone, in case
  I should be hungry near this spot
  When passing on my daily trot.
  I am sorry, but I quite forgot
  It was your resting-place.
Thomas Hardy ('Ah, are you digging on my grave ?')

The London police, Miss Samsonoff, are delightful, but rather on the dull side. They are much given to standing in the middle of crowded roads and dreaming, and in even your short stay in London you must have observed what a serious, nay intolerable, obstruction they are to the traffic.
Michael Arlen (The Ghoul of Golder's Green)

Tamb: Take it up, villain and eat it; or else I will make thee slice the brawns of thy arms into carbonadoes and eat them.
Usum: Nay, 'twere better he killed his wife, and then she shall be sure not to be starved, and he provided for a month's victual beforehand.
Tamb: Here is my dagger: despatch her while she is fat; for if she live but a while longer she will fall into a consumption with fretting, and then she will not be worth the eating.
Marlowe (Tamburlaine the Great)

"Globble Blub Glub Bubble Glubble" - Well what else did you expect a hot water bottle to say ?
Mike Higgs (Moonbird cartoon strip in C.E.N. 1977)

"I think there's a pain somewhere in the room" said Mrs. Gradgrind "but I couldn't positively say that I have got it."
Dickens (Hard Times)

Whenever a second girl is born in a family she is thrown in the river - they can't stand more than one girl in a house.
Maxim Gorki (Fragments from my diary) [The Chinese]

If you are worried about the possibility of illness caused by your goldfish, you are probably suffering from what we doctors call lunacy and should seek psychiatric help.
Private Eye 1977 (A Doctor Writes)

I used to be indecisive; but now I'm not so sure.
Bosco Pertwee.

First Serv: O ! I am slain. My lord, you have one eye left to see some mischief on him. O ! [Dies]
Corn: Lest it see more, prevent it. Out, vile jelly ! Where is thy lustre now ?
Shakespeare (King Lear)

Your brain is like a sleeping giant...it seems we use less than 1% of the brain's capability.
Tony Buzan (Encyclopaedia Britannica advert)

  He thought he saw a Coach-and-Four
  That stood beside his bed:
  He looked again and found it was
  A Bear without a Head.
  'Poor thing,' he said, 'poor silly thing !
  It's waiting to be fed !'
Lewis Carroll (The mad gardener's song)

Thursday, 28 January 2016

Computer sonnets

How can the purple yeti be so red,
Or chestnuts, like a widgeon, calmly groan?
No sheep is quite as crooked as a bed,
Though chickens ever try to hide a bone.
I grieve that greasy turnips slowly march:
Indeed, inflated is the icy pig:
For as the alligator strikes the larch,
So sighs the grazing goldfish for a wig.
Oh, has the pilchard argued with a top?
Say never that the parsnip is too weird!
I tell thee that a wolf-man will not hop
And no man ever praised the convex beard.
Effulgent is the day when bishops turn:
So let not then the doctor wake the urn!

Shall I compare thee to a noxious bed?
Thou art more like a graceful squalid egg:
For none will ever warmly call thee red
Until, my elk, they see us choke a leg.
My heart is crimson, likewise is it blue,
When e'er I see the hopeless maidens growl;
I stunned the reckless butler - for a gnu
Had crudely whistled as it found a fowl.
Alas! the days of android, blob and pine
Are gone, and now the stainless scarecrows fume;
Icelandic was the reindeer, now so fine
And vermin cannot heat the chuckling broom.
But thou, my falling gorgon, shalt not write
Until we firmly stand at Heaven's light.

Oh major-general, tell me why the crane
Should be delinquent when the chickens melt:
A rotting goldfish never oils a brain,
Although 'tis true that urchins mend a pelt.
My heart is verdant, likewise is it shy,
When e'er I see the crippled onions talk;
I maimed the foolish bedpan - for a fly
Had quickly waddled as it lost a stork.
I saw a bus-conductor bravely mope
With mice as half-baked as a rattling spleen:
I revelled with a claymore and a rope,
But had a dream of poodles and felt green.
Consumptive is the day when felons run:
So let not then the butcher jab the nun!

Chess match special

Brian Johnston: Welcome back to Chess Match Special, where the players are just coming back onstage after the tea interval and Short is preparing his move. And I must say that this cake is absolutely splendid... it's been sent by a Mrs Capablanca who is a regular fan of our broadcasts.

Trevor Bailey: I wonder if she's any relation of old Boko Capablanca who once took 8 pawns in a game for Derbyshire.

[Muttering in background.]

BJ: Thanks, Bill. Well the bearded wonder says that none of Boko's surviving relatives have ever made edible cakes, though his aunt Matilda was well known for seedcake. And Short has moved! That's King to King's Bishop's Square, or Kf1 if you prefer. Any comments, Trevor?

TB: Well the board may be a bit damp where Short spilt his lemonade, so one would imagine that this would help the fast movers. Rather a quiet move really but often seen in world championships.

[Muttering in background.]

TB: Oh, Bill Frindall says that in fact it's only been seen in 17% of world championship matches.

BJ: I see there's also a patch of biscuit-crumbs at the striker's end. Do you think Kasparov will be able to make use of this when he comes to move?

TB: Oh I should imagine so. Biscuit crumbs, cigarette-ash, sawdust, ... the true professional is going to extract the maximum advantage out of the state of the pitch, if he can.

BJ: And I see that umpire Dickie Bird is adjusting one of the pawns. I think a gust of wind must have caught it. Anyway I'm off for a pooh-pooh now, so to take you through the next few minutes, it's Aggers.

Jonathan Agnew: Great to be here, Johnners. Now I think old Shorty must be feeling as sick as a rook, as the saying goes, because he was relying on that pawn being slightly crooked, wasn't he Trevor?

TB: Z-z-z-z-z-z.

JA: Thank you Trevor. Well we're still waiting for Kasparov to move his men into position and there's no sign of any time trouble yet. I'm not so sure about these chess clocks though... they've already given trouble in this game: Bill, remember when the alarm went off, and woke up Trevor?

[Sounds of violence in the background followed by a sharp slap.]

TB: Eh? What? Oh, thank you Bill. Well as I was just saying, we really have seen some magnificent pawn-work in this game.

[Meanwhile on Channel 4 Carol Vorderman is asking 3 leading grandmasters whether they ever have any trouble remembering how a knight moves, and what would happen if Kasparov moved a piece of the wrong colour by mistake.]

J.R.P. 1993

Saturday, 28 March 2015


David Hilbert
Was often mistaken for Gilbert.
"I did NOT write Trial by Jury!"
He would say, in fury.
Fleischmann and Pons
Confounded their fellow dons
By demonstrating fusion in a football stadium
And later at the London Palladium.
Alan Turing
Needed reassuring
That a Turing machine made of papyrus
Was immune to almost every virus.
Professor John Coates
Mistyped his lecture notes;
But "Useful for Bankers" had more takers
Than the intended: "Useful for Bakers".
W.H. Auden
Never lived in Morden:
In his poems the central line
Is usually very fine.
Andrey Nikolaevich Kolmogorov
Had a headache, but it wore off.
He didn't find the test that statisticians learn of
Until he discovered Smirnoff.
G.H. Hardy
Was rather tardy
At patching up his quarrel
With Stan Laurel.
I find Maclaurin
Very borin'
And Taylor's series
Also wearies.
Bertrand Russell
Once choked on a mussel
Which is why he says nothing exciting
about shellfish in his writing.
 Donald Knuth
Thought it very uncouth
Of people to rhyme TeX
With Sex.
George N. Kayatta
Had some novel views on matter.
When your velocity is high,
You find pi in the sky.
E.C. Bentley
Taxes me mentally.
But Edward Lear
Is crystal clear.
Stephen Hawking
Is always talking
Of that stitch in Time
Which saves nine.

The Right Honourable Anthony Wedgewood Benn
Is as common as other men.
"I'm NOT a Viscount," says he.
"I'm a teapot, you see."
Is not easy to parody.
He would take legal action
If you said "Proof by induction".

The poems of Trad
Are not so bad,
But Anon's verse
Gets steadily worse.

Not wearing pyjamas.
He feels more mighty
In a white nightie.

Joseph of Arimathea
Wore trousers of barathea.
The same applies to Mr Michie's*

* A character in Lucky Jim, and this bit is true.

What mathematicians write about

As far as I could tell, these are the most commonly occurring words in titles of papers listed in MathSciNet, excluding the likes of "and", "of", "the", etc.:

equation (169,596), problem (152,343), system (123,957), function (112,503), space (102,400), solution (98,857), theory (97,817), method (82,817), group (73,474), linear (66,798), theorem (65,826), differential (65,421), model (60,637), operator (56,991), class (51,260), two (48,300), order (48,261), application (46,494), boundary (44,574), finite (44,135), field (43,788), type (41,569), integral (41,114), property (39,699), time (38,130), set (37,639), point (36,067), analysis (35,658), value (34,789), matrix (34,774), approximation (34,520), certain (34,010), control (32,073), number (31,463), algorithm (31,164), distribution (30,665), polynomial (29,614), stability (29,257), graph (29,178), asymptotic (28,532), condition (28,100), note (28,062), representation (27,766), random (26,742), quantum (25,396), wave (24,922), optimal (24,741), series (24,704), variable (24,351), ring (22,547), stochastic (21,701), flow (21,365), dynamic (21,362), inequality (21,050), form (20,680), existence (20,414), invariant (20,334);

with words such as algebraic, behavio(u)r, bounded, characteristic, coefficient, complex, construction, continuous, curve, data, decomposition, difference, elliptic, extension, first, fixed, fluid, free, fuzzy, global, hyperbolic, infinite, inverse, large, limit, local, map, mapping, mean, mechanics, metric, module, motion, normal, numerical, one, parabolic, partial, periodic, positive, potential, principle, product, real, regular, relation, remark, second, sequence, simple, singular, spectral, sum, symmetric, three, transformation, vector and zero following on their heels.

A few more surprising words also appear, and not all in papers by statisticians performing unlikely analyses:

sandwich (224), bandit (206), monster (116), sex (116), secretary (110), god (56), sausage (53), devil (50), cake (42), egg (39), demon (38), football (31), snark (29), worm (25), tadpole (24), spider (23), frog (21), hairy (20), ham (19), mouse/mice (18), sober (16), sponge (13), apple (12), banana (11), baseball (11), cheese (11), tortoise (10), dirty (9), slug (8), cricket (7), coffee (6), lobster (6), blotto (4), murder (4), snail (4), penguin (3), tea (3), vampire (3), boojum (2), drunkard (2), merry-go-round (2), mole (2), butter (1), grebe (1), jazz (1), molehill (1), python (1), silly (1), sloth (1), spam (1), whelk (1), ...

(Recall that there are concepts known as the Ham Sandwich theorem, the Monster group, the Wiener sausage, the Devil's staircase, the science of cake cutting, egg domains, Maxwell's demon, snarks (graph theory and, independently, topology), dilaton tadpoles (mathematical physics), leap-frog algorithms, the Hairy Ball theorem, mice (set theory), sober spaces, Swiss cheeses, the Achilles and tortoise paradox, dirty black holes, slug flow, lobster trees, Colonel Blotto's game, the drunkard's walk, and the problem of logical sloth.)

Here are a few words which do not yet occur in titles of mathematical papers, and are thus a challenge to future mathematicians:

albatross, custard, disgusting, elk, foolish, jackdaw, lumberjack, puffin, raving, weasel, wombat.

Last updated January 23rd 2003. Thanks due to various contributors (you know who you are).

Tuesday, 24 March 2015

Jeeves and the slippery paradox

A recently discovered manuscript containing an unpublished P.G. Wodehouse story has led some scholars to the theory that the "Bertie Wooster" stories were in fact based on the career of Bertrand Russell, and that the Drones club was none other than Trinity College, Cambridge. Here is the story so that readers can decide for themselves.

"Professor Whitehead to see you, sir," said Jeeves, as he shimmered in with my morning coffee.

Pieface Whitehead is one of my oldest friends and we had been out on the town together only the previous night, celebrating the Boat-race. Indeed two pals of ours, Stinker Hardy and Bingo Littlewood, had been caught throwing a porter's bowler hat into the fountain and it was only thanks to Jeeves' persuading the Senior Tutor that they were washing it for a friend that the Dean had let them off the hook.

"What-ho, Pieface!" I said brightly.

"What-ho, Bertie!" my friend replied. "Dashed off any more of the jolly old Principia lately?"

At this time Pieface and I were collaborating on a little venture which we had given the snappy title of "Principia Mathematica" not realising that it had been used before. My aunt Dahlia (the nice one, not to be confused with Aunt Agatha who is the one who eats broken bottles) had said that she had long known that her nephew Bertrand Rooster had the mind of a shrimp, but that hitherto they had managed to keep it in the family.

"No, I'm still having a spot of bother with the jolly old plot," I confessed. "I'm trying to sort out the proof that 2 plus 2 is 4, but the bally sum doesn't seem to be coming out."

"Well stick at it, old man," said Pieface. "By the way, ever heard of an old boy named Frege? He's sent me this book about set theory. Can't make out what the old buzzard's getting at."

"Foreign johnny, isn't he?" I replied. "One of Jumbo Hilbert's cronies? Man with a strange glint in his eye? Met him once or twice."

At that moment Jeeves shimmered in with a telegram and stood respectfully waiting while I read it.


"I fancy that Professor Frege is in a logical dilemma, sir." replied Jeeves after some thought. "It might help if he were to go to a lady barber, on logical if not sartorial grounds. Naturally one would not expect him to grow a beard. As the poet Wordsworth puts it..."

"This is no time for the poet Wordsworth, Jeeves." I snapped. "Matters of philosophy are at stake."

"Very good, sir. If I may make a suggestion, sir..."

"Oh, fire away, Jeeves. Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of the party."

"Well, sir, it occurred to me that Professor Frege's logical dilemmas merely constituted a new form of the Epiminedes paradox. Possibly if you were to devise a theory of "types" for him, then he would be able to prove the existence of his shave."

"Er, really, Jeeves?" I asked, somewhat impressed.

"Yes, sir. Indeed it might well lead you to a new proof that 2 and 2 make 4, if I may venture the observation."

The rest is history.

How to be a good lecturer

Well hello and welcome to the first lecture of the course er look I said hello look I'd like to start now will you shut up SHUT UP PLEASE oh thank you I don't mind you talking if you do so quietly I didn't ask to do this course you know I wanted to do algebra I told them I didn't know any analysis

now this course is all about complex numbers and I've got a list of recommended books here er well no in fact I seem to have left it behind never mind they're all out of print anyway now let me write up a definition where's the chalk gone ah here it is SNAP ah let me take another piece THUD not very big these platforms are they I keep falling off them

now definition 1.1. is ah um of course I haven't said what this section's called yet oh it doesn't seem to have a name anyway it's all about convergence of power series you did something like it in real analysis didn't you don't you remember well he should have done it in his lectures I don't have time to go into it now

now definition 1.1. scribble scribble can you read that at the back no oh well sit further forward then can you read it at the front ah come to think of it I can't read it either perhaps if I turn on this light ah no not that one another one oh well the cord was a bit frayed I suppose well look that symbol is a capital sigma yes what's the problem yes well green seems to be the only colour they have left in the box probably because nobody in his right mind uses it so they leave it for me

well look perhaps if I explain it in words it's all in the textbooks anyway I can't help it if they're missing from the library people eat them or something well now I'll draw a diagram you don't have to copy this exactly because it's slightly wrong anyway this is diagram 2 good question I think I forgot to draw diagram 1 anyway as I say it doesn't help much phew let me take my jacket off a bit rip oh well I sewed that button on myself you can tell can't you

now let me digress a minute about the history of the subject here it was discovered by Cauchy or do I mean Gauss one of those people and he sent a copy of his paper to someone else who well anyway it's very important and has a lot of applications such as er such as well anyway you will see applications in your other courses I expect of course they don't use the same notation but then they don't have the same ideas of rigour as we do and now let's write down the first result lemma 1.2

lemma 1.2 oh I haven't actually defined radius of convergence yet have I still let me write it up and we can decide what it means later well I still seem to have a few minutes left so I'd better start the proof let n be this and r be this and v be that and n be that no on second thoughts I'm already using n now so I'll call it nu pardon no it's a nu a greek letter you must have seen it before you know greek letters alpha etcetera no this one is nu all right call it v if you like but we're already using v still it won't cause confusion

now multiply this out and obviously what we get is er clearly um oh that can't be right what have I done wrong here can you see the mistake maybe I lost a minus sign somewhere search me oh dear it's time to finish isn't it well give me just 5 more minutes and I'll finish this off and oh maybe I should do this bit again more carefully next time ah that should have been a nu maybe no it should be a v oh it's an r is it oh well look I'll finish this next time I'm sure I've got most of the details right it's really very elementary after all I haven't done anything nontrivial yet...

How to be a good member of a lecture audience

Aaaachoooo! Cough. Splutter. Wheeze. Yes I've got a cold. There's a lot if it about. No I don't use a handkerchief. Sniff. Sniff. Cough. Oh thanks, now I've sneezed on your notes I might as well blow my nose on them. Zurrrrrkkk! Hoooossssh! Now what lecture is this?

Do you think he's got this bit wrong? Well I'm sure you can prove it quickly using matrices. Shall I ask him whether you can? No. Something wrong? No, nothing wrong. I was just wondering if you could prove it more quickly with matrices. Oh I see. Stick my head in a bucket of WHAT? Oh right. Yes.

God this is so boringly obvious. I think I'll do the crossword instead. Mixed-up caterpillar in tribal religion, we hear? Hmm. Can you think of an anagram of caterpillar? Oh I'm SORRY. I didn't realise you were listening to the lecturer. Oh I thought he was proving a different theorem. Excuse me, how do you get x-squared there? You just explained that. Sorry, I didn't realise.

Can I borrow a bit of paper? Have I really borrowed one every day this week? Ah thanks. I don't suppose you have a pen I could use? Yes I'll take care of it. Ooops, it's on the floor. SCRUNCH. Ah well at least we know where it is now.

Eeeek, I've lost my contact lens. It must be down there somewhere. Sorry, yes I'll try and look for it quietly I know you've got a lot to cover today. Could you tell me if there's a contact lens down there? How about the row behind? Yes it is important I can't see without it. Oh it's all right I am wearing it. Just got a bit of dust in my eye. You can stop looking now. Help I'm two blackboards behind now. What can I do?

And how to be a good exam invigilator

O.K. you can start writing as soon as you get to your places. Look would you mind sitting down? What do you mean there isn't a desk for you? You must be in the wrong room. What's your name? Oh. Well there don't seem to be enough desks. Perhaps you could sit on the floor this time. Come on, let's get started.

Ha ha ha ha ha! Oh sorry. I've just seen the joke in question 5. I don't know how they think of them. What a laugh exams are, eh? Anyway don't let me disturb you. Sorry about that.

What do you want? Well why didn't you go beforehand? Honestly, the incontinents you get round here. Well why didn't you bring a pottie with you? Oh all right I'll find someone to escort you. Can't have you stinking the place out, can we? Though maybe you should have a doctor's certificate (rustle rustle). No, it doesn't mention that. O.K. get a move on.

Creak, creak, creak, crash! Bloody hell, they don't make chairs like they used to, do they. I bet Chippendale's chairs never gave way when you leant back on them. Oh well, now I've nowhere to sit down. Tramp, tramp, tramp. (God what a useless answer that chap's writing. Even I know that 2+2 is 4 not 5. Must be nerves, poor chap.) Oh sorry, am I putting you off? I'll go and breathe down somebody else's neck.

Ah, this one looks calm -- he's writing away nineteen to the dozen. A-a-a-a-a-SHOOOO!!! Oh sorry. Yes we can pick up all the sheets of paper. And I'll try and find you a clean question paper. What was that sheet that went through the window? Question 2? Oh well, maybe somebody will pick it up and hand it in to us. You wouldn't have got many marks on it anyway, it's quite tricky.

Right, all writing must cease now. In fact if you knew your stuff it would have ceased 20 minutes ago. Look I told you to stop writing. Well you'll have to hand it in anonymously then, won't you? I don't suppose it'll make much difference to your result.

The first million digits of pi

"The first million digits of pi" is a truly original book. The authors have clearly perceived the breakdown of language as a medium of communication, and have bravely and successfully fallen back on mathematics as a medium for imparting deep truths. Were James Joyce alive today, he would be enraptured by the portentous start to this novel. "3.14159..." is the sonorous opening, and the pace never falters.

The allusions in this novel are many and subtle. For example, the phrase "666" occurs several times, bringing up suggestions of the Beast of the Revelation. Whether it was Nero, or maybe Euclid, the authors do not need to say. Another ringing passage begins "1 1 1 ..." clearly symbolising the feelings of isolation and loneliness that the authors suffer. So far the literary establishment has ignored this novel almost entirely -- no nominations for Nobel prizes or Booker prizes, not even a Fatwah from fundamentalist Muslims who might be expected to see this as a parody of the book of Numbers.

I cannot resist quoting a passage which is so rich in allusions that one could study it for a lifetime and still be able to find new insights.

"5 0 2 8 8 4 1 9 7 1 6 9 3 9 9 3 7 5 ..." it runs. Note the rhythm of the passage, the rippling of the nines and the rugged tension implicit in the sevens. Despair is writ in every syllable. Like a Gothic cathedral it towers above mere prose.

What is unique about "pi" -- as it will be known to future generations -- is that it is independent of language. For those who want sex, there is plenty (if they read it in Latin). German devotees of Tolkien will find the 'elf' motif cropping up every so often. French critics have already noticed the references to 'huit' -- it would be rash to rule out the theory that this novel contains the real truth about crop circles.

This is the novel which Archimedes longed to write. As Rousseau put it, Man is born Three. So indeed is Pi, and what follows is the greatest novel on the human condition ever penned.

The private life of Tolkien

Many people have noticed that Tolkien's novel "The Lord of the Rings" bears an uncanny resemblance to the game of Dungeons and Dragons, in that it contains elves, dwarves, orcs and so forth. Clearly Tolkien was much influenced by D&D, and a recently unearthed recording, probably made by MI5, shows him playing Dungeons and Dragons on the floor of his rooms in Merton College, Oxford one evening with C.S. Lewis, Charles Williams, and various other luminaries.

Here is part of the transcript of the recording, which all will agree is of great historical interest.

C.S. Lewis: Well, Tom, it's really good of you to come along and act as Dungeon Master for the evening. Haven't enjoyed myself so much since I played in G.K. Chesterton's dungeon and slew Father Brown.

T.S. Eliot (for it is he): Thanks. Anyway, is Father Aslan going to go and explore the Waste Land further yet, or will he have another drink?

Lewis: That depends on the rest of the party. Radagast?

Tolkien: Yes, I want to go and see Madame Sosostris the clairvoyante and see what she has to say.

(Murmurs of assent from Dorothy L. Sayers, Charles Williams, Bertrand Russell (visiting), etc. etc.)

Eliot: O.K. Radagast I want you to roll a D20 at this stage to see what happens as you walk across the Waste Land.


Tolkien: Who is it?

Voice outside: Iss only me, Professor Tolkien. Juss poor Smeagol. He's brought his essay for the nice Mr Professor.

[Tolkien goes over to open the door, doing his best to block the view of the dice, counters and miniature monsters on the floor. Meanwhile the rest of the party hurriedly leap into chairs and pretend to be having a deep discussion.]

Lewis: Yes but we all remember what St Paul says about the Numinous in his Epistle to the Confusions...

Tolkien: Well, Smeagol, where's this essay? Can't you see I'm busy discussing the Numinous?

Smeagol: Don't be hard on poor Smeagol, he couldn't find his precious elvish dictionary. That nasty Baggins had borrowed it. Oooh, what's that on the floor?

Tolkien: Er, nothing. My son must have left his toys there.

Smeagol: Can Smeagol be an orc?

Bertrand Russell: Certainly not. We don't want any orcs. I've come over specially to play White Head the dwarf.

Lewis: You mean, 'to argue the non-existence of God,' don't you?

Russell: Er, yes. Sorry.

Tolkien: Off you go boy and hand your essay in on time in future. [Door slams]. Now, my character Radagast threw a 12. What happens to him?

Philosophy class

O.K. I'll take the roll call. Archimedes? Wittgenstein? Hobbes? Buddha? No, just say "Yes," not "Om", boy. Locke? Hume? Descartes? What do you mean you don't know, boy? Think. That's better. Yes, of course you're here. Kant? Heidegger? ... oh all right I think everyone else is here.

Now today we're going to... Socrates. What are you drinking in class? Hemlock, boy? Put it away? I don't care if you are going to die, you're not doing it in class. And stop egging him on, Plato.

Who said "Om" just then? Was that you, Buddha? If you're going to be enlightened, do it later. Now be quiet. Yes, meditate if you wish.

You're being very rowdy today. And you, Nietzsche, shouldn't be wearing that Superman tee-shirt in class. I don't care if it is going to supersede mankind. It's not doing it today.

Archimedes! Come back boy. You can't run around shouting "Eureka" every time you have a bright idea. It disturbs the others. And you ought to be wearing more than a bath towel anyway.

Descartes, are you still with us? Wake up, child. Now your work is due in today. Russell, I want you to get the work from just those people who don't hand it in themselves, and hand it in. What do you mean, that's a logical contradiction? Yes, of course you have to hand in your own work. No, that doesn't mean that you don't hand it in yourself.

Zeno. Why didn't you do the work? You did half of it, yes. Then what? You had to do half of what was left? Yes, right. Then what? You still had to do half of what was left? ... Well everyone else manages. You ought to organize yourself better, boy...