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Jargon comes up trumps for the kids

[14 Jan 2014] In the right place and when used for the initiated, jargon is a good thing that saves much explanation. Games and pastimes use it a lot, with bridge and chess being obvious examples. I was making this point to some primary-school children the other day and read out the following example from Andrew Robson’s bridge column in the Times:

‘Trumping in your hand, with trumps that will win anyway by virtue of their length and strength, normally gains nothing (and potentially dangerously reduces your trumps).’

The kids started giggling and asked me to read it again and again, their mirth increasing each time. As they left, beaming, at the end of the lesson, the teacher from the next room said she’d never heard so much laughter from a class. What was my secret, she asked?

Well, I must have got on their wavelength somehow. And all of them said they’d turn up again next week for mathematics in the context of shipbuilding, when I promised to demonstrate the importance of good mensuration in the construction of poop decks. [MC]

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