There are no rules to Mornington Crescent (old version)

Paul Crowley, 29 May 2001
This version has been superceded; see the latest revision.

Tube map detail

OK, so your favourite newsgroup or mailing list has become infected with people listing seemingly random London Underground stations, each annotated with justification to a rule that no-one's mentioned before. They're playing some sort of game! But oddly enough, they can't tell you where you can find a copy of the rules. And you've done a search for the rules, but with no success - you seemed close one time, but ended up on a 404. Hopefully, you also found this page.

The reason you didn't succeed is the obvious one. There are no rules to Mornington Crescent. The whole thing is an elaborate wind-up, a form of trolling which for some reason has become socically acceptable. It started decades ago with the BBC Radio 4 game show "I'm Sorry, I Haven't a Clue", and the whole tedious dross has just lumbered on for decades, seemingly without anyone noticing how dull and unfunny it's become.

Of course, if you assert this on your infected mailing list, it'll be denied. Of course there are rules! Try asking in Or just watch the game being played for a bit, you'll pick them up! None of these angry denials will be accompanied by working URLs pointing to clear descriptions of the rules that account for the game you've seen played.

Now, it's clear that this assertion does not stand to reason: first, because the myriad of strange exceptions being quoted would seem to indicate that the rules are way too complex to pick up, and second because it's pretty much unimaginable that any game so popular on the Internet should lack an easily-found Web page which gives a clear explanation of what the rules are, especially when you come to wonder how everyone else found out about the Einstein/Tchaikovsky rule of 1963 regarding Fenchurch St. However, there's an easier way to challenge the whole nonsense. Take part for a turn! Just post your own move ("New Cross Gate", say), complete with spurious justification ("I would have preferred to move to St. Paul's, but we had Morden three turns ago so it would have been in breach of the slipping rule...") and watch what happens.

What happens? Nothing! No-one will say "Eh? The slipping rule doesn't say that, it says...". Not a one of these rules experts will notice that you're making it up from whole cloth. If you manage to sound convincing - and of course, if you differ sufficiently from the example given here - your invention will sit happily with all the other inventions you're witnessing. However, when it's clear you're not going to be gainsaid, you still have a sacred duty. Tempting as it is to sit back and savour the thrill of being in a clique you previously felt the chill of being cut out of, it's best to abolish the clique altogether. After a couple of days, you should reveal exactly what you've done and why, with a pointer to this web page, to help put a stop to this nonsense.

In doing this, you'll be breaking one of the few great taboos of the Internet. Few things are taboo on the internet; in most discussion groups it's perfectly reasonable to discuss, for example, sodomizing newborns with pitchforks. But reveal that there are no rules to Mornington Crescent, and people get quite peeved, especially if you make it hard to deny as you will have done. Nevertheless, you must do it. Ridding the Net of this obnoxious cliquery will not make you popular, but it might make it a friendlier and less boring place to be.

Postscript: bizarrely, a rebuttal has already gone online barely hours after writing this - arguing not that there are rules, but essentially that the rulelessness should not be revealed. I disagree, but, well, judge for yourself.