From my notebooks: The Oxford Book of Oxford i.e. Don’t be a ninny!

Lewis Carroll. Mathematics. Tutor at Christ Church. 1832-98.

Taken from a letter by Carroll:

It is the most important point, you know, that the tutor should be dignified and at a distance from the pupil, and that the pupil should be as much as possible degraded.

Otherwise, you know, they are not humble enough.

So, I sit at the further end of the room; outside the door (which is shut) sits the scout; outside the outer door (also shut) sits the sub-scout; halfway downstairs sits the sub-sub-scout; and down in the yard sits the pupil.

The questions are shouted from one to another, and the answers come back in the same way–it is rather confusing until you are well used to it. The lecture goes something like this:

Tutor: What is twice three?
Scout: What’s a rice-tree?
Sub-scout: When is ice free?
Sub-sub-scout: What’s a nice fee?
Pupil: Half a guinea!
Sub-sub-scout: Can’t forge any!
Sub-scout: Ho for Jinny!
Scout: Don’t be a ninny! …

And so the lecture proceeds. Such is life.


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