The Spike: or, Victoria University College Review, June 1929
A Syllogistic Soliloquy
A Syllogistic Soliloquy
The other night, while wandering absently hither and thither, I wandered into a foreign lecture room. My first instinct was to wander out again, but deciding to be broad-minded, I found an unoccupied nook, and with the hope that I might possibly extract Some Facts That Might Prove Useful In After Life, plunged into the study of the most amazing Science.
The first all-British statement that I managed to disengage seemed to me to be an excellent joke; but as my companions treated it with the utmost deference, I changed my mind about roaring with laughter and made a note of it. "For everything that is, there is sufficient reason why it is so rather than otherwise." I chuckle when I think of it. None of the students realised that the Professor was yielding to his flair for leg-pulling. He and I exchanged a sympathetic smile.
At first, owing to the frequent repetition of the world "relation," I was of the opinion that I had become enmeshed in a lecture on Current Events, and waited for the inevitable reference to that extraordinary process known as the "cementing of friendship." But here the lecture skidded a trifle, and we dealt extensively with a young lady named Barbara—evidently one of the relatives. She seemed to be popular with the younger set. If things evinced the slightest tendency to drag, one of the youths had only to mention her name and matters would assume new life. A rather interesting disclosure was made in this respect. "Assymmetrical and non-symmetrical relations are related to symmetrical relations as intransitive relations are related to transitive relations." I may be a Zoilus—but I do not think the word "Relatives" might be substituted for "relations." By some cruel stroke of Fate I had spent the whole of my life in ignorance of this important sidelight on kinship, and felt half-ashamed of exposing myself to ridicule by noting it in my book. Everyone else looked as though he had known about it from infancy and had gone on knowing it harder and harder ever since.
Three minutes later the versatile Professor had a spelling bee going in full swing. It brought back those good old Play-lunch Days.
"S-I-P-!!" shouted someone.
"S-A-P-!! chorused three or four in the front row.
Having received an exceptionally good grounding in spelling during recent years at V.U.C., I raised my voice and tendered a husky "S-U-P!"
Immediately the letters left my mouth. I realised that I had been guilty of some serious breach of etiquette. With the class my little effort went down well as being quite a Good Joke. The Professor, however, seemed to be on the brink of tears. He looked at me in much the same way as Queen Elizabeth must have looked when she said: "God may forgive you, but I never will." Rallying nobly, he took off his glasses, wiped them, made page 31 two attempts to put them on again by taking his ears unawares, and then a more subdued man, resumed without them.
Although for the most part so far as I was concerned, the discourse might just as well have been carried on in Chinese, I must admit that in some respects it was correspondingly unaffected at times. The answers to two staggering questions were, respectively, "No cows are horses," and "No birds are non-flyers." In addition, I heard one or two facts that will prove useful to me throughout life. A dilemma as I had previously known it was an awkward predicament. Imagine my surprise when I learned that on the contrary, a dilemma was "a syllogism with a compound hypothetical major premise and a disjunctive minor."
There could be no more fitting ending for this than another quotation from my notes.
"Have you a strawberry mark on your left shoulder?"
"Then you must be my long lost brother!"