In Archie Armstrong's Banquet of Jests (1641), the following passage occurs:

Qui mihi decipulus

A Gentleman and a Parson.
Some pleasant Gentlemen riding by the High-way, espyed a Countrey Parson before them. Sayes one of them, yonder is a Scholler, let us mend our pace, and you shall heare me pose him with a question. They did so, and after a sleight salutation; Master parson, saith he, I pray you can you resolve me what part of speech is Qui mihi decipulus? Yes sir, I can, replies the Parson; Puer es, cupis atque doceri. The words are so familiar, they neede no Interpreter.

Unfortunately, the words are not so familiar to me, and need an interpreter.


There seems to be an error: it is not "decipulus", but "discipulus".

Qui mihi discipulus, puer es cupis atque doceri
    Huc ades, haec animo concipe dicta tuo.

This is the opening couplet of William Lily's Carmen de moribus (1548) and means "Boy (puer), you who (qui) are (es) a student (discipulus) of mine (mihi) and who desires (cupis) to be taught (doceri), come here (huc ades); consider (concipe) these things (haec dicta) in your mind (animo ... tuo)" (full translation here).

  • 2
    This is the most natural explanation, but a tiny niggling part of me wonders if there was an intentional alteration to make a pun or something, considering this is "Witty Jeeres." Probably not, and I cannot even make out what a pun this would be, so a transcription error is most probable.
    – cmw
    Aug 12 at 17:10
  • 2
    @cmw Many of the jokes in here are pretty weak, so even a hint is possible. Now that I have qwertxyz's reference, I suspect it's meant to be read without wordplay: A gentleman hopes to impress his companion with his knowledge of Latin and ability to pose intricate questions. But his sample text is from (what is a century later) an elementary primer, and he doesn't even get it right. The parson shows him that he knows full well how little Latin the gentleman knows by quoting the continuation of the passage. As an extra layer, the passage is itself about being a schoolboy learning Latin ... Aug 12 at 17:22
  • I notice that by this explanation, it's possible it could be a transcription error and still be the same joke (he just has to quote from school Latin, not get it wrong). But I am interested in any wordplay possibilities — if something about "decipulus" invited the parson's quoting the passage instead of replying... Aug 12 at 17:25

There is an actual word decipula, which means "a snare; a trap" and comes from the word decipio, which means "to ensare; to trap; to cheat."

While qwertxyz is right about Lily's passage, I think there is a bit of a wordplay going on, especially since this is, after all, Witty Jeeres. Instead of an error, we have a deliberate (by the author, not by the character) misquote.

One possibility is that the character in question just forgets the actual word and therefore combines discipulus and decipula into a sort of accidental portmanteau.

Another possibility, which isn't mutually exclusive with the first, is that the word was chosen as a pun on "to trap" or "to cheat." Maybe the character is trying to cheat or will be trapped? It's hard to tell without reading more from it (and even then an author's jokes are not always immediately obvious), but I do now think there is something there.

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