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Author Topic: "Cats is dogs and rabbits is dogs but tortoises is insects"
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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

http://www.nybooks.com/articles/19220

To the Editors:

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.

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