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A Pedant Writes No 63b/I/ii


From the Thomas Sheraton Rosewood Writing Desk (1781) of Prof Verity du Bious:

Dear Sir

Convinced as I was by the recent contribution (and supporting evidence) furnished by Miss Edwina Fosdyke Thratchett MBE with regard to the possible interpretation of the letters N.O.R.W.I.C.H. when used by service personnel in private correspondence during the Second World War, I take up my Laban Antique Bronze Medium Nib Fountain Pen to protest the wholly anachronistic projection of this wholly context-specific meaning onto the radically different circumstances of a 2004 Swiss hotel-room-based correspondence between a distinguished Professor of Culinary Bioethics and an ingenue of barely majority age.

Whilst allowing that a generation of males bearing the impress of their wartime "education" in these matters might well have taken the use of vulgar acronyms forward into their later lives, we must not be incognisant of the fact that by the end of the War Professor Thrupiece was still a child and barely 5 years old at that! Whilst it is also true that he was, by all accounts, unusually mature for his age to the point where he may even be styled - without accusation of hyperbole - "a prodigy", there is nothing to suggest that he would have adopted the communicative idiosyncrasies of a generation other than his own and certainly not one so recently brutalised by military experience. Further, even were we to allow this highly problematic and unlikely scenario, how on earth can we assert with any semblance of credibility, that Ms Sizemore (who was not even a twinkle in her mother's mother's eye in 1945) would have been capable of understanding and interpreting such an arcane cultural reference?

No. We are surely clutching at straws, indulging in post hoc reasoning and above all assuming a cultural-legibility quite beyond credibility if we insist that N.O.R.W.I.C.H is anything other than a straightforward geographical reference. Safer surely to assert that, well-established in the teacher-pupil relationship appropriate to their ages and stations in life, the two had discussed the historical significance of the the great East Anglian capital (perhaps as part of a Romano-British curriculum devised by the Professor himself) and that the teacher was reminding his pupil of their disquisition on the subject whilst simultaneously encouraging her to continue to feed that healthy curiosity which is the mark of the intellectual naive or late scholar manqué.

I add only that we must be careful in these matters: for they count in the great reckoning that lies before us all. My father and his generation did not defeat the Nazi tyrant only for us - who are the inheritors and beneficiaries of their sacrifice - to fall prey to false assumption and morally-corrosive insinuation.

As Shakespeare so perfectly has it: ‘There are more things in Norwich, Shelley-Lulette, than are dreamt of in your philosophy’. Amen to that! What more can be said?

Sincerely

Prof Verity du Bious

St Doctrinaire Hall

Oxford


The case of Professor Thrupiece, the envelope and the Acronym has troubled even the finest minds.

The case of Professor Thrupiece, the envelope and the Acronym has troubled even the finest minds. ABOVE: St Doctrinaire College, Oxford, where Regius Professor of Epistolatory Ethics Verity du Bious has been much exercised.


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