Wednesday, 21 June 2017

An exam essay (London)

When I was examiner for the University of London Board ‘O’ level Chinese exams in the ’80s (1984–1988), one of the essay titles was “Education”.  One of the overseas candidates (from Hong Kong) wrote something to this effect:

I had always been a poor student.  One day, I got a duck’s egg for my maths.  
I thought, “OK, so I got a duck’s egg, so what?”

My mother then got a letter from the school principal to go and see him.  
I thought, “OK, so the principal wants to see my mother, so what?”

When my mother returned from the meeting, I knew something was 
not quite right.

After that day, my friends gave me the nickname “Zebra”.

(London 1984/85)

*The Chinese don’t just get a zero, they get a big zero (a duck’s egg being bigger than a hen’s egg), so it’s even more humiliating.  My MacBook Pro dictionary gives it as “goose egg” in American English, which is even bigger!

goose egg (noun, N. Amer. informal): a zero score in a game.
ORIGIN:  late 19th cent.: with reference to the shape of the zero

duck (noun, Cricket): a batsman's score of nought: he was out for a duck.

ORIGIN:  mid 19th cent.: short for duck's egg, used for the figure 0 because of its similar outline.

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