Laurie Taylor – 21 September 2017

The official weekly newsletter of the University of Poppleton. Finem respice!

September 21, 2017
Man sitting on pile of money

The word’s the thing

Dr Hannah Tenet, our Head of Linguistics, has warmly welcomed recent research by the University of York that unearthed such lost archaic words as nickum, ruff, tremblable and awhape.

She specifically praised Dominic Watt, senior lecturer in linguistics at York, for identifying “lost” words with contemporary relevance: “sillytonian” (“a silly or gullible person”) and “ear-rent” (“the figurative cost of listening to trivial or incessant talk”).

But she was particularly delighted to discover that the York research complemented her own work on archaic usage that had already identified several other lost words with contemporary resonance.

(Pron: TEF UL. REF UL) (Verb)

These two words are used interchangeably in medieval texts but both refer to the repetitive use of unreliable and invalid forms of measurement (see also chicanery, jiggery-pokery, gamesmanship).

Sample sentence: “He was trying to refle (or tefle) the depth of the ocean using only a piece of string and a second-hand shuttlecock.”


This 15th-century term describes a culpable blindness to the manner in which one’s own actions are bringing about the gradual destruction of a once-proud public institution.

Sample sentence: “He was jojoing around while Rome burned” (see also rudderless, muddle-headed, time-server).


This 16th-century slang word refers to a large amount of money that has been awarded despite great controversy.

Sample sentence: “She had no guilt whatsoever about sitting on top of such an obscenely large breakwell.”

Rectifying the anomaly

“They deserve a helping hand.”

That was how Ted Chippings, our Head of TEF Submissions, reacted to the news that Jo Johnson, the universities minister, was adjusting the next teaching excellence framework in a manner that would boost universities in the Russell Group.

Mr Chippings told our reporter, Keith Ponting (30), that his heart had bled for those Russell Group universities such as York and Southampton and the London School of Economics that, unlike Poppleton, had failed to achieve a gold rating.

Part of the reason for these Russell Group failures was believed to be their relatively low scores on the National Student Survey.

Enter the minister for universities. From now on, announced Mr Johnson, the value of the NSS results would be halved. And in case that wasn’t enough to move places such as York and the LSE into gold class, Mr Johnson also declared that the next TEF would give additional weight to the metric that had absolutely nothing to do with teaching quality but was known to discriminate in favour of wealthier students: the size of graduate earnings.

But, wondered Ponting, were these TEF changes necessarily a good thing?

Mr Chippings had no doubt. “It is a basic rule of competition between universities that whatever measure one devises to distinguish between them, it should largely ensure that there is no change whatsoever to the existing hierarchy.”

Introduction to clear thinking. Year one.

Critically evaluate the following sequence of statements. Can you detect any inconsistency?

Improvements in teaching quality are associated with improved examination results.

Three years ago, the universities minister introduced the teaching excellence framework to improve teaching quality.

This year, British universities reported improved examination results.

This year, the minister for universities condemned British universities for grade inflation.

(Write on one side of the paper only.)

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