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Quotes

Quote #10

"Can you do Addition?" the White Queen asked. "What's one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one and one?"

"I don't know," said Alice. "I lost count."

"She can't do Addition," the Red Queen interrupted. "Can you do Subtraction? Take nine from eight."

"Nine from eight I can't, you know," Alice replied very readily: "but – "

"She can't do Substraction," said the White Queen. "Can you do Division? Divide a loaf by a knife – what's the answer to that?"

"I suppose – " Alice was beginning, but the Red Queen answered for her. "Bread-and-butter, of course." (Looking-Glass 9.20-27)

Alice's carefully learned mathematical skills are foiled by the riddles of the Red Queen. But it's not just Alice: even the White Queen, who calls subtraction "Substraction," has trouble.

Quote #11

Here the Red Queen began again. "Can you answer useful questions?" she said. "How is bread made?"

"I know that!" Alice cried eagerly. "You take some flour – "

"Where do you pick the flower?" the White Queen asked. 'In a garden or in the hedges?"

"Well, it isn't picked at all," Alice explained: "it's ground – "

"How many acres of ground?" said the White Queen. "You mustn't leave out so many things." (Looking-Glass 9.43-47)

This reminds us of those thought exercises where you imagine being stranded on a desert island. Even though we're advanced 21st century people, few of us would be able to make all the things we want or need. The queens quiz Alice on her practical knowledge and quickly show her how much explanation and skill is necessary for something relatively simple, like making bread.

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