Comment: You might find this an interesting example of someone remembering an urban myth as if it happened to himself. That he is a prominent physicist makes it only odder: From the New York Review of Books, Aug. 10, 2006
Freeman Dyson recommends that we should try to understand other people from the inside. But it does seem to be carrying this process of identification a bit far for Dyson to attribute to his own childhood experience the encounter with a train conductor concerning the status of a tortoise:
When I was a boy in England long ago, people who traveled on trains with dogs had to pay for a dog ticket. The question arose whether I needed to buy a dog ticket when I was traveling with a tortoise. The conductor on the train gave me the answer: "Cats is dogs and rabbits is dogs but tortoises is insects and travel free according." The very same encounter appeared as a cartoon in Punch in 1869 [see illustration at left]. The caption of the cartoon reads:
Railway Porter (to Old Lady travelling with a Menagerie of Pets). "'STATION MASTER SAY, MUM, AS CATS IS 'DOGS,' AND RABBITS IS 'DOGS,' AND SO'S PARROTS; BUT THIS 'ERE 'TORTIS' IS A INSECT, SO THERE AIN'T NO CHARGE FOR IT!" [Punch, 1869, Vol. 57, p. 96] Nicholas Humphrey Cambridge, UK
Freeman Dyson replies:
Thanks to Nicholas Humphrey and Michael Jackson for letters informing me of the 1869 Punch cartoon about tortoises and dogs on trains. My memory of traveling with a tortoise has two possible explanations. The first and more probable is that I heard of the conversation recorded in the Punch cartoon and transformed it over the years into a memory. This would not be the first time that I remembered something that never happened. Memories of childhood recollected in old age are notoriously unreliable. The second possible explanation is that the memory is accurate. In that case the conductor on the train knew the cartoon and said what he was supposed to say according to the script.
Posts: 36029 | From: Admin | Registered: Feb 2000
| IP: Logged |