Newton: Ah, Leibniz. So you’ve finally made contact. Took you long enough. On a bad line too. I suppose you rang to apologise for your atrocious behaviour in trying to scoop me about the technique I invented. Too late to curry favour now.
Leibniz: My my, aren’t we excitable? Calm down, Isaac.
Newton: Don’t you Isaac me, you plagiarist. And anyway, it’ll soon be Sir Isaac, so show a little respect to your elders and betters. I beat you to it and you could clear the air by admitting that you nicked my fluxions.
Leibniz: Nicked your fluxions, eh? Well, I hope that wasn’t too painful. I could tell you how to heal the wound, but being such a cantankerous old buffer, you probably wouldn’t take advice from anyone.
Newton: I certainly would not take it from a thief like you. Tell me, do you steal horses as well as mathematical notions?
Leibniz: Now now, my dear fellow, don’t take on so. I’m no copycat. I worked independently of you.
Newton: Liar! You sneaked a look at my notes and everybody knows it. By the way, what’s all this nonsense about your surname. There seems to be some debate about whether it’s supposed to end with ‘tz’, or just ‘z’. I know you’re a fool, but surely you know how to spell your own name.
Leibniz: You can do it either way but don’t waste my time with trivia. I want to know why you kept your alleged system secret for so long. In the highly improbable event that you really cracked it in 1665, you’ve set a new record for anal retention. It’s now 1704. Are you seriously suggesting that you deliberately left us all in the dark for thirty-nine years?
Newton: You haven’t done too badly on that score either. You reckon you got the answer in 1673 but you didn’t let on until 1684. Anyway, the time lags have nothing to do with it. I was there first and that’s what matters. If you’re now crawling to me with a request for cooperation, you’ve come to the wrong address.
Leibniz: As it happens, I’m not suggesting that we work together. Who’d want to do that with you when it’s well known that you can’t stand anybody? I doubt that you can tolerate yourself. If you’d get out into the world, you might find it useful to consult your peers from time to time.
Newton: Rubbish! I have no peers. The only one fit to lick my boots in the field we’re discussing was good old Archimedes. He knew his stuff about integrals and if he hadn’t been killed by that stupid Roman soldier, he’d have solved differentials too.
Leibniz: No argument there. At times I wonder why it took a further nineteen centuries for me to produce the goods.
Newton: There you go again. How many more times do I have to tell you that I was the first to make the breakthrough? My word, you’re a sore loser.
Leibniz: Garbage! I didn’t lose. Your problem, or one of the many you have, is that the apple that fell onto your head may have helped you with the gravity thing, but it clearly caused some collateral damage to your brain, which I suspect was addled enough before the impact. Eventually you’ll admit that I’m the leading scientist in the world today.
Newton: What’s a scientist?
Leibniz: It’s a term I’ve just invented and it won’t be widely used for a hundred years or more. I suppose I shan’t get the credit for that, either. For your information, the word science will replace what we now call natural philosophy.
Newton: Twaddle! The current expression is good enough for me. However, we’re not making progress here. I tell you that my description of what we’re discussing is more accurate than your clumsy definition, nova methodus pro maximis et minimis. That’s too much of a mouthful for anybody.
Leibniz: Oh, so you’re now saying that I’m guilty of superfluidity in my use of language.
Newton: Superfluity is the word you’re seeking, dimwit. Do I have to correct you in your use of English as well?
Leibniz: In case it’s escaped your feeble notice, we’re holding this conversation in Latin, dumbo.
Newton: Well, English will take over in due course.
Leibniz: How do you know that?
Newton: Because in addition to standing supreme in the field of mathematics, I am prescient. Just wait and see. You might also care to note that the matter of terminology is now irrelevant because I’ve changed the name of my work to The Calculus.
Leibniz: Hah, more cheating. May I ask when you had this ‘inspiration?’
Newton: This morning.
Leibniz: A likely story, but not one that will do you any good. I came up with the same term yesterday.
Newton: Balderdash! You’re just trying to steal my thunder again, but the truth will come out. Look, this connection is getting worse. I’m having trouble hearing what you say. You keep breaking up.
Leibniz: No wonder. I’ve only recently developed this thing I call the telephone. It won’t be in common use for about two hundred years. See, you’re not the only one who can peer into the future, so don’t give yourself so many airs. Now, this call is costing me a fortune.
Newton: I can’t imagine why. I mean, a pair of empty metal or paper cups and a length of baling wire can’t be all that expensive. Still, I think we’ve said enough to make it obvious that my fluxions and fluents preceded your nova methodus bunkum and that both are now outdated, so begone and don’t pester me again.
Leibniz: My idea will win the day. Nobody is going to take notice of a man who tries to poke out his own eye and sits on the edge of his bed for hours after waking. Honestly, forgetting to get up in a morning. What kind of cretin does that?
Newton: Enough! Goodbye, blockhead.
Leibniz: Likewise, moron.
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