Sunday, May 11, 2008

Nuts to You, Boys!

When I was coming up as a budding classicist, it was still traditional to take a term during one's studies of the Latin language for the reading of Catullus, a perennial favorite among schoolboys because of his capacity for making even the raunchiest ideas seem learned and urbane. One of his poems, in particular, was especially popular when I was in school, because it was filled with exquisitely nasty invective against a pair of men whom Catullus singled out for some of his best abuse. All of my Latin-savvy readers out there already know that I'm referring to poem 16, which reads:
Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo,
Aureli pathice et cinaede Furi,
qui me ex versiculis meis putastis,
quod sunt molliculi, parum pudicum.
Nam castum esse decet pium poetam
ipsum, versiculos nihil necesse est;
qui tum denique habent salem ac leporem,
si sunt molliculi ac parum pudici,
et quod pruriat incitare possunt,
non dico pueris, sed his pilosis
qui duros nequeunt movere lumbos.
Vos, quod milia multa basiorum
legistis, male me marem putatis?
Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo.
What could be more beautiful than that, I ask you. Let it not be said that Latin is not the language of God himself (an old joke has it that some Enlightenment Pope or other averred as to how "I speak Latin when I am speaking to God, I speak French when I am speaking to a lady, I speak Italian when I am speaking to a gentleman, and I speak German when I am speaking to my dog.") nor that Latin poetry is not the finest aesthetic achievement of mankind. Note, in particular, that first line:
Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo
That means, basically, "I will fuck you up the ass and make you suck my cock", and it is every bit as raunchy in the Latin as I have made it in English.

Needless to say, that's not the sort of thing that's going to make muster in one of those classically oriented homeschooling schemes, but Back in The Day when everyone had to read Catullus in order to pass one's O-levels there was something of a quandary as to how to translate this poem for the use of the tenderhearted young boys who needed a crib to get through the thing. If you look up the words in the old Latin dictionary that was long standard among scholars (Lewis and Short) you will find that, rather than translating the terms they give instead such phrases as "Membrum virile in os inserere." One early 20th century translation, found in the old Loeb edition of Catullus, began with the line:
Nuts to you, boys, nuts and go to hell!
That's telling them! Why didn't Catullus write that to begin with, I wonder? Deucedly more devastating than the original, after all!

Well, all of this intellectual enlightenment is intended as background for the reference that I really wanted to pass along to you. The verb in that first line up there (irrumabo) has a related noun, irrumator, the meaning of which can be rather easily inferred from my translation of the verb (since this is a family blog, I'll leave it to the reader to make such inferences for himself). With all of that in mind, have a look at this story about Eric Lu, a senior at West Geauga High School in Ohio. It's a rather nice photo of Eric, but I wonder whose idea it was to superimpose that Latin text on it, leaving the lascivious label right above the poor fellow's head? A disgruntled classmate? A frisky editor at The Plain Dealer? Somehow I doubt that either possibility is very likely, since I doubt that anyone really knows enough Latin to put together such a howler. One thing I'm sure of, though: as soon as somebody with any sense is made aware of the thing, it will be taken off the net, so be sure to check it out soon.

But don't worry, I've saved a copy to my computer, just in case.


DimBulb said...

Well, he does aspire to be an attorney. &*%$#$^ indeed!

Darwin said...

As a more modernn schoolboy, I had a copy of the Student's Catullus from University of Oklahoma Press. (Yes, even Oklahoma has apparently caught up with Latin invective.) It didn't provide translations, but it did provide "a Catullan vocabulary" section at that back, which was helpfully non-evasive.

The result was, of course, that I used Catulluan Latin putdowns routinely through late high school and college. For what do we study such things other than to be able to hurl insults at people and get back a blank expression?

Apollodorus said...

Even I am too modest to translate the first line of Cat. 16 to my students. I gave them the line once when they were asking me about the infamous 'naughty' Latin that they'd been hearing about. I told them a story about a friend of mine who made the mistake of bantering back and forth in Latin quotations with a female friend of his on a public blog. His then fiancee's mother was still rather suspicious of his character, and so she did a google search for him and found the blog posts. She didn't know much Latin, but she's had her children classically educated and so she eventually figured out how to translate the line. She, of course, didn't take the joke and concluded that my friend was already having an affair with another woman and trying to hide it from his fiancee by keeping it all in Latin. The greatest part of all of this is that her own daughter had been studying Latin since she was about 11 and was better at it than her fiancee. Eventually her mother managed to calm down long enough to be persuaded that it really was just a joke.

I offered my students extra credit if they could figure out what it meant. I had no takers. I've managed since then to overcome some of that modesty, but I'm still not quite as comfortable as you are -- I remember one student I met who was taking a course with you in my senior year saying, with more than feigned shock, "he likes to drop the F-bomb. A lot."

Scott Carson said...

I see nothing wrong with good, old-fashioned Anglo-Saxon bilabial fricatives every now and then, though the way some students seem to think, it's OK for them to use such language, but not for their professors. I've seen some rather negative reviews regarding my willingness to speak to them in their own language on occasion.

When I was in graduate school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill I once took a seminar with Kenneth Reckford, who, if I remember correctly, was something of an authority on Aristophanes. We were translating some play or other and came across a rather colorful description of one of the characters, and Reckford asked the assembled worthies if they knew what the term meant. Most of us did know, having prepared the passage for translation, but Reckford was one of those stuffy old Harvard philologists, the type who always wore a tie and a tweed jacket to class, and most of us were nervous about going into too much detail in our translations.

Reckford waited for about a minute and then, when nobody volunteered, he said, with infinite aplomb, "Yes, it means he 'takes it up the ass'!" The seminar seemed to go more smoothly from that point on.

Kevin Jones said...

Oh dear, terrible for him.

I once caught the introduction to Sean Hannity's radio show, which uses excerpts from Carmina Burana.

As the announcer boldy says "Sean Hannity is on the air," the choir in the background sings "mecum omnes plangite."

"Everyone weep with me."

SR said...

This is why I enjoy reading this blog so: higher learning and naughty bits!