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Oxford and Cambridge

This is a compilation of humorous quotes from people (mostly lecturers) at
Oxford and Cambridge. I found them all on Web.

This lecturer seems to have a tautology problem:
• "A mapping is 1-1 and onto if and only if it is 1-1 and onto."

From a lecturer who knows exactly what he intends to do:

• "....and now we need to increase n. The best way to increase n is to
increase n."

Obviously a student who didn't like his lecturer:

• "Oh dear, where's my rifle...."

In the middle of a difficult proof:

• "This is the stage where I start to pray"...
followed by...
"Somebody up there is being kind to me, are they? No."
followed by...
"I've done something silly with a square root of 2."

Some Integration quotes:

• "You can sleep if you want."
• "It's delicate to get your hands on it."
• "Will we all agree to shut that one in a cupboard?"
• "Well we can't quite stop yet - although I am tempted..."
• "This is fun: lots of magical ways to solve differential equations!"

A disillusioned lecturer:
• "In the old days, the pure days..."

Some quotes from a statistics lecturer:

• "This is a stupid example - you can see why; it's an exam question."
• "We observe approximate approximation to .... "

Yet *more* integration quotes:

• "Integration by parts is not economical on paper"
• "It's all so simple it's hard to remember"
• "I worked it out last night - let's see if it works in the daylight"

This term's contradictions prize:

• "I want to stop looking at inhomogeneous equations and start looking at
inhomogeneous equations"

Nope, this isn't 'Hurricane':

• "Imagine me running towards you at root-three-over-two c"
You'll never guess what - we had an incredibly quotable integration lecturer:
• "Has anyone got it out yet? (Pause) You're not doing it are you?"
• "It looks an incredibly integrable function !!"
• "Proof's easy, by the way, provided I keep my act together"
• [to a moving blackboard] "SIT!!!"
• "I'll just reassmble the duster"
• "Take the computer and it will do lots of things while you're at the pub"

Some quotes from a Rings and Groups lecturer:

• "Examples come in two types: interesting ones and examination ones"
• "Now I run down the r's and up the b's"

A befuddled lecturer:
• "Is this the right lecture theatre?"

Even More Quotes:

• "The proof is not required for finals, but I'm going to give you it anyway
because it's nice."
• "multiplied by the stupid derivative dFx"
• "I'd thought we'd spend the rest of the day in light entertainment: Let's do
some schools questions!"
• "Questions are easy, with a bit of luck"
• "If you want to cut corners, an intelligent corner to cut is not to learn the
proofs of any of these theorems"
• "I'll take a special delta when I see what I need"
• "If x were negative this would go sky-high - it would blast off the map"
• "Can I bring along an elephant and some trumpets to draw your
• "Pinch yourself, kiss your neighbour, anything to draw attantion to this"
(loud kissing sound of student kissing neighbour)
• "Let me make a mistake now"
• "That woman can't clean the board. I pay someone to clean the floor at
home and then I come here and spend 15 minutes mucking around"
• "We could do it if we could pull the sum sign through and that's what God
gave us the monotone convergence theorem for"
• "...and at this stage your heart should have a slight hiccup"
• "...and at this stage you should go and have a beer"
• "Now we go into automatic drive and finish this off"
• "I'm going to use this diagram. It's not completely silly"

After turning out all the lights:

• "So that's what these switches do!"
A different quotable lecturer:
• "Are you bored?" [Students shout Yes]
• "Are you mega-bored?" [Students shout YES]
• "What a waste of time coming to Oxford to get bored in lectures."

A talkative lecturer:
• "No, let me stop gibbering my mouth off without thinking about it
beforehand... and I've just shot myself in the foot"

More of the prolific lecturer:

• "You keep thinking you've got over the hiccups ….. and then…. they come
back again"
• "I like it. (referring to a theorem) It looks upside down to me."
• "...there's the following delicious little proof"
• "I've got two 2's, the third should be a 3"
• "Let's fall into the trap - let's do the obvious thing"
• "The trick is not to write anything"
• "It will enable you to pull derivavtives through integrals, which you have
wanted to do all your life - and some of you have been. This tells you when
you can legally do it."

In a differential equations lecture:

• "As you can see, these equations are very easy to remember - hold on, I've
missed out a term..."

Starting off a course early in the year:
• "The important thing to remember about this course is that it doesn't
actually mean anything."

An energetic lecturer:
• "Note that one must always have his sleeves rolled up for discussing this
kind of thing."

Tautology-of-the-term prize:
• "If you start off with a 72 elements and take away half, you're left with the
other half"

The Tautology prize goes to the lecturer who uttered the gem:
• "If we complicate things they get less simple."

This year's modesty award is given for a phrase spoken by a lecturer after a rather
difficult concept had just been introduced.
• "You may feel that this is a little unclear but in fact I am lecturing it
extremely well."

From an algebra lecture:
• "This book fills a well needed gap in the literature."
And another encouraging book review:
• "This book is only for the serious enthusiast ; I haven't read it myself."
A perplexing quote from a theoretical chemist:
• "...but it might be a quasi-infinite set."
Now…What is a "quasi-infinite set?
An engineer actually gave an answer to the question of "quasi-infinite" sets:
• "It's one with more than ten elements."
And they wonder why buildings fall over... ??

This year's Modesty Prize is awarded to the lecturer who said :

• "Of course,this isn't really the best way to do it.But seeing as you're not
quite as clever as I am - in fact none of you are anywhere near as
clever as I am - we'll do it this way."

From the same lecturer :

• "Now we'll prove the theorem. In fact I'll prove it all by myself."

In the middle of the course the lecturer offered this piece of careers advice:
• "If you haven't enjoyed the material in the last few lectures then a career
in chartered accountancy beckons."

A lecturer of Linear Systems found the following on his board when he arrived
one morning:
• "Roses are red,
Violets are blue,
Greens' functions are boring
And so are Fourier transforms. "

From a supervisor :
• "Any theorem in Analysis can be fitted onto an arbitrarily small piece of
paper if you are sufficiently obscure."

No matter how simple a course is there will always be occasions when a certain
amount of arithmetic is called for:
• "I just want you to have a brief boggle at the belly-busting complexity of
evaluating this."

From a Special Relativity lecture:

• "...and you find you get great masses of energy."
• "This must be wrong by a factor that oughtn't to be too different from

A flattering comment for a student by his GR supervisor:

• "She's the only person in DAMTP who's a real person rather than an
abstract machine for doing tripos questions."
A thought from the same student:
• "Sex and drugs? They're nothing compared with a good proof!"

In the true style of Cambridge Maths Tripos we have the following:

• "Proof of Theorem. 6.2 is trivial from Theorem. 6.9"

Can anybody guess the context in which the following is correct ?

• "This theorem is obviously proved as 13 equals 15."

Why do mathematicians insist on using words that already have another

• "It is the complex case that is easier to deal with."

From an Algebra III lecturer :

• "If you want to prove it the simplest thing is to prove it."

From statistics:
• "I too would like to know what a statistician actually does."
• "We're not doing mathematics; this is statistics."
• "You could define the subspace topology this way, if you were
sufficiently malicious."
• "You mustn't be too rigid when doing Fluid mechanics."

Talk about ulterior motives...

• "This handout is not produced for your erudition but merely so I can
practice the TeX word-processor."

From 1A NaturalScience "Cells" course:

• "There are two proteins involved in DNA synthasis, they are called
DNAsynthase 1 and DNAsynthase 3"

From a Part 2 Quantum Mechanics lecture:

• "Just because they are called 'forbidden' transitions does not mean that
they are forbidden. They are less allowed than allowed transitions, if you
see what I mean."

One from a 1A Engineering maths lecture :

• "Graphs of higher degree polynomials have this habit of doing unwanted
wiggly things."
• "Apart from the extra line that's a one line proof."
• "This is a one line proof...if we start sufficiently far to the left."

A slight difficulty occured with geometry in an Engineering lecture one day:

• "This is the maximum power triangle." said a lecturer, pointing to a

This year the Computer Scientists seem to be in the running for the Honesty
• "I'm not going to get anything more useful done in this lecture, so I might
as well talk."
later followed by ...
"Well there you are, one more lecture with no useful content."
And from various research seminars in the King's College Research Centre:
• "I'm sure it's right whether it's valid or not."
• "...the non-uniqueness is exponentially small."
• "I'm not going to say exactly what I mean because I'm not absolutely
certain myself."
• "It's dangerous to name your children until you know how many you are
going to have."
• "You don't want to prove theorems that are false."
• "If you play around with your fingers for a while, you'll see that's true."

And One that tops it all …

From a first year chemistry lecture… some personal problems of the lecturer:

• "Before I started this morning's lecture I was going to tell you about my
divorce… but on reflection I thought I'd better tell it to my wife first."