Tag Archives: Humor
Tonight I watched “The Reader” on campus with a friend because the author (Bernhard Schlink) who wrote the book upon which the movie is based is on campus for the next few days delivering talks and reading from his other book(s). While watching the movie, I noticed that the edition of the Odyssey which young Michael reads (supposedly in the 1950’s or so) is actually Fagles’ translation, which was first published in 1997. Someone needs to fire the props guy. They should have spent the money to find a 1940’s translation of the Odyssey so that Classicists can’t pick out things like this.
This Friday’s funny word is my favorite Latin word: pullarius or “chicken master.” Cicero in his De Divinitate (On Divination) talks about the duties of the pullarius and his skepticism concerning the efficacy of their omens. In the morning, a pullarius would go out to feed the chickens in silence. If the chickens ate with fervor, it was a good omen. If not, it was received as a bad omen. One of the most famous instances of this type of augury in antiquity was when Publius Claudius Pulcher, during the First Punic war (mid-3rd century BC), sailed out against the Carthaginians even though the chickens did not eat with vigor that morning. He lost the battle (probably because the men were so frightened they were incapable of fighting well) and was subsequently exiled for his sacrilege.
Tum ille: “Dicito, si pascentur.” “Pascuntur”. Quae aves? Aut ubi? Attulit, inquit, in cavea pullos is, qui ex eo ipso nominatur pullarius. Haec sunt igitur aves internuntiae Iovis! Quae pascantur necne, quid refert? Nihil ad auspicia; sed quia, cum pascuntur, necesse est aliquid ex ore cadere et terram pavire (terripavium primo, post terripudium dictum est; hoc quidem iam tripudium dicitur) – cum igitur offa cecidit ex ore pulli, tum auspicanti tripudium solistimum nuntiatur. Ergo hoc auspicium divini quicquam habere potest, quod tam sit coactum et expressum?
My translation is thus:
Then he said: “Tell me if they eat.” “They are eating” responds the Augur. “What birds? And where?” He says, “A man brings the chickens into the birdcage and on account of this is called the chicken master (pullarius).” These chickens are therefore the mediators of Jove! And whether they eat or not, what does it matter? Nothing to the auspices; but because, if they eat, it is necessary that something will fall from their beak and strike the ground (this was at first called terripavium, afterwards called terripudium, and now it is indeed called tripudium [a favorable omen when chickens eat greedily]) – therefore when the food falls from the beak of the chicken, then it is said that the most perfect chicken omen has begun. Therefore how is this omen able to have anything divine, which is so forced and strained?
Come to think of it, tripudium solistimum (the most perfect chicken omen) is pretty funny too.
This article is hilarious and it speaks to the sorry state of education today. The solution is NOT more “science and math” classes (which are talked about as if they’re academic messiahs), but the basics of a liberal education that teach critical thinking. I took one biology course in college, so I’m by no means an expert on octopi and couldn’t tell you about the variety of octopi that might live in the ocean. However, I was a Classics major and we learned to be careful readers of texts and to hunt down sources. If someone were to say that there is such a thing as a “Tree Octopus”, I would of course be skeptical, but I would also realize I have the resources available to find out the truth. This is an absurd example and most people with any sense wouldn’t believe it (I hope), but there are less extreme examples that get passed around on the internet all the time. Consider the “Zeitgeist” film that was produced a few years ago. Have you run into anyone that believes the things said in that movie? I have, plenty of times. Perhaps universities would do well to not rid themselves of programs that teach students to be critical thinkers.
I think there’s a joke in Augustine’s Enarratio in Psalmum 52, but I may just be reading something into the text that isn’t there. After discussing the heading of the Psalm (IN FINEM, PRO MAELETH, INTELLECTUS IPSI DAVID), and etymologizing Maeleth to mean parturiens and dolitus, Augustine goes on to explain that it is Christ about whom the heading of the Psalm, and especially Pro Maeleth, speaks.
He then explains that it is through the members of the body of Christ that Christ Himself suffers here on earth (Christus hic parturit, Christus hic dolet) and then says what I think is the joke: caput est sursum, membra deorsum = the head is above, the members below. The joke of it is: Augustine is preaching thus far from the heading (caput) of a chapter of the Psalms and has yet to get into the body of the text (membra). It’s a lame joke if it’s a joke at all, but I think it’s there.
Those of you who have taken courses on a foreign language wherein translation was the main component will appreciate this one. The verb is λωεβιζομαι – that is, “I use the Loeb (for myself)”.
When someone in your class has trouble recognizing a present tense verb one week, but comes in with the most polished translation the next(sounding a bit like 1950’s English), you can use this verb.