Friday, 14 February 2014

Valentine's Day story

Today's lecture was on Valentine's Day. It is appropriate that you hear this story.

 “You haven’t told me yet,” said Lady Nuttal, “what it is your fiancé does for a living.”

“He’s a statistician,” replied Lamia, with an annoying sense of being on the defensive.

Lady Nuttal was obviously taken aback. It had not occurred to her that statisticians entered into normal social relationships. The species, she would have surmised, was perpetuated in some collateral manner, like mules.

“But Aunt Sara, it’s a very interesting profession,” said Lamia warmly.

“I don’t doubt it,” said her aunt, who obviously doubted it very much. “To express anything important in mere figures is so plainly impossible that there must be endless scope for well-paid advice on how to do it. But don’t you think that life with a statistician would be rather, shall we say, humdrum?”

Lamia was silent. She felt reluctant to discuss the surprising depth of emotional possibility which she had discovered below Edward’s numerical veneer. “It’s not the figures themselves,” she said finally, “it’s what you do with them that matters.”

— Ascribed to K. A. C. Manderville, The Undoing of Lamia Gurdleneck, in Maurice G. Kendall and Alan Stuart, The Advanced Theory of Statistics, Volume 2 (1979, frontispiece).