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Cakes and Ale
During a history final at England's ancient Cambridge
University, the proctor saw a student raise his hand.
"Yes?" said the proctor.
"Sir, please bring me cakes and ale," the student said.
All the other students in the room stopped writing.
"Is this a joke?" the proctor asked.
"No sir. I request and require you to bring me cakes and
"I will do no such thing. Continue with your
"I am afraid, sir, that you must bring me cakes and
ale," the student said. "The university's book of laws
stipulates as much."
"I've never heard of such a thing," the proctor
"Happily, I have a copy of the book with me," said the
student. "You do read Latin, don't you?"
The student produced an ancient book and showed the
relevant clause to the proctor. It read, "A student
sitting for an examination may request and require the
proctor to bring him cakes and ale."
"Very well," said the proctor. "I shall be back in a
Twenty minutes later, the proctor returned with a
serving tray. On it was a pitcher of ale, a glass and a
small cake on a plate. "Here we are. May I borrow that
book while you complete your exam?"
The student handed it over. The proctor returned to his
desk at the front of the room and sat reading until the
exam was over. Two hours later, the student brought his
exam book up to the proctor.
"Thanks for the cakes and ale!"
"Just a moment," said the proctor. "I'm afraid you've
violated one of the ancient laws of the university."
"What are you talking about?"
"Look here. It says very clearly, 'A student sitting for
an examination who fails to wear his ceremonial sword
shall be fined one pound.' You can pay the fine to me."
The setting for this story is always either Cambridge or
Oxford. In other versions the student requests a glass
of port or a jug of wine. Later, the proctor fines the
student for failing to wear shoes with silver buckles, a
tabard or a starched ruff collar.