A song by mathematician and comedian

Tom Lehrer to the tune "

If you give me your Attention" (

Princess Ida,

Gilbert and Sullivan). Published in

American Mathematical Monthly, 81 (1974). Lyrics reproduced here with Tom Lehrer's

written permission.

If you give me your attention, I will tell you what I am.

I'm a brilliant math'matician - also something of a ham.

I have tried for numerous degrees, in fact I've one of each;

Of course that makes me eminently qualified to teach.

I understand the subject matter thoroughly, it's true,

And I can't see why it isn't all as obvious to you.

Each lecture is a masterpiece, meticulously planned,

Yet everybody tells me that I'm hard to understand,

And I can't think why.

My diagrams are models of true art, you must agree,

And my handwriting is famous for its legibility.

Take a word like "minimum" (*) (to choose a random word),

For anyone to say he cannot read that, is absurd.

The anecdotes I tell get more amusing every year,

Though frankly, what they go to prove is sometimes less than clear,

And all my explanations are quite lucid, I am sure,

Yet everybody tells me that my lectures are obscure,

And I can't think why.

Consider, for example, just the force of gravity:

It's inversely proportional to something - let me see -

It's r^{3} - no, r^{2} - no, it's just r, I'll bet -

The sign in front is plus - or is it minus, I forget -

Well, anyway, there is a force, of that there is no doubt.

All these formulas are trivial if you only think them out.

Yet students tell me, "I have memorized the whole year through

Ev'rything you've told us, but the problems I can't do."

And I can't think why!

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** This was performed at a blackboard, and the professor wrote:*
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