Saturday, February 26, 2005

The brilliant -- and not so brilliant -- schoolboy

I enjoyed Ed Cook's post on Ralph on The Brilliant Schoolboy, following on from a comment made by Jim Davila on Paleojudaica.

There is another side to the archetypal "schoolboy", though, the one who makes basic errors of reasoning. B. C. Butler, The Originality of St Matthew. A Critique of the Two Document Hypothesis (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1951): 63, criticises previous synoptic scholars for making "a schoolboyish error of elementary reasoning at the very base of the Two Document Hypothesis". I wondered if this "schoolboyish error" phrase might itself be a motif in academic writing of a certain era (when male scholars in male universities were looking back on their days at boys' public schools), but was surprised to find only Butler's use above coming up when I googled for it.


Andrew Criddle said...

There is a parallel of sorts to 'schoolboyish error' in Macaulay's hostile review of the edition of Boswell's 'Life of Johnson' by his political rival Croker

"Indeed the decisions of this editor on points of classical
learning, though pronounced in a very authoritative tone, are
generally such that, if a schoolboy under our care were to utter
them, our soul assuredly should not spare for his crying."

lizw said...

I have usually heard that phrase as "schoolboy error". That returns so many Google hits that it is difficult to isolate any difference between academic and non-academic usage. I have at least once heard it changed to "schoolgirl error" when I had said something particularly idiotic myself ;-)