Saturday, December 26, 2009

(258) "origin of christmas for veni vidi vinci" and other ´incorrect´ Latin quotes

On the early evening of December 16th 2009 I checked the Statcounter statistics for this blog and saw that someone in Beirut had very recently accessed it by putting
the origin of christmas for veni vidi vinciinto a search engine.

Here are the hits thrown up by that implausible Lebanese search -;_ylt=A0geu_UjCSlLBmcBOctXNyoA?p=origin of christmas for veni vidi vinci&fr2=sb-bot&fr=ush-mailc

My blog is the first hit. I noted the fourth -

and browsed it briefly. I was surprised by how frequent a misquotation this seems to be, although I had noticed at least one other occasion when my blog had been thrown up by a similar search.

In Entry 44 here the misquoting is deliberate.

I left a comment about the misquote and pointed Karen Christensen to my blog.
About five hours later I turned to the Chessbase report by John Saunders on that day´s final round of the London Chess Classic tournament.

I noted in the second paragraph a different and new incorrect quoting of Caesar.
But then I saw that the coincidence is more specific still.

The opening paragraph is about the Norwegians´ annual gift of a Christmas tree to London as gratitude for British help during World War Two. (My father had served in "that fracas" as he put it in Norway in the early days of the war.)

This year the... tree was sent... but Norway also thoughtfully sent another present – not as tall but every bit as impressive to anyone who appreciates top-quality chess. 19-year-old Magnus Carlsen came, saw and conquered at the London Chess Classic and, in the process, launched himself to the top of the official world chess ratings. Nobody has ever achieved this at a younger age.

So, “Magnus venit, vidit, vicit” (I knew all that school Latin would come in handy one day)...

The Berkshire Blog´s misquote comes in an entry about the launch of the book
This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity
... our first book for teachers... This Fleeting World: A Short History of Humanity... by the brilliant and eloquent world historian, David Christian... covers not only the history of humanity but the origins of the universe and of life, the “big history” David is known for.

... I snagged the title... when David told me UCP had decided not to use the quotation...

Thus shall ye think of all this fleeting world:
A star at dawn, a bubble in a stream,
A flash of lightning in a summer cloud,
A flickering lamp, a phantom, and a dream.

[... from the final verse of the ‘Diamond Sutra’, c. fourth century CE, as translated by Kenneth Saunders, cited in Christmas Humphreys, ed., The Wisdom of Buddhism, London... "] I know I’m supposed to... in order to choose a book title, not simply fall in love with a line of poetry. But this one... sounds so much like Shakespeare... and... the author, suggested it... The book is a companion to the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History and... appears in it as an overview introduction...

... William H. McNeill, Professor Emeritus, University of Chicago, says about the book:

Julius Caesar famously summed up the surprises and confusion of ten years of war in Gaul with three Latin words: veni, vidi, vinci I came, I saw, I conquered... David Christian performs a similar feat by summing up the surprises and confusion of 250,000 years of human history in 56 pages... and improves on Caesar’s boast by showing how persistent collective learning expanded human skills, and enlarged our numbers, wealth, and power across the ages. What a quick, convenient, and persuasive way to begin to understand the confusing world in which we find ourselves! ...

: Posted under Publishing & media, World history.
Comments: 4

Pingback from Berkshire Blog by Karen Christensen » This Fleeting World is published
Time: 30 June 2007, 12:09

[...] I’m at the World History Association conference in Milwaukee and have the delightful experience of meeting some of the Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History authors and also being... with David Christian, author of our hot-off-the-press This Fleeting World: A Brief History of Humanity, and... Bob Bain and Lauren McArthur, who wrote the foreword. It’s... available... Monday... In the meantime, some background at a previous post. [...]

Comment from Marci Ziese
Time: 30 December 2007, 15:01

I noticed you did not cite a reference for the translation of the last four lines from the Diamond Sutra, quoted above. Do you know the source of this particular translation? I have seen other ones that are similar but not quite as poetic.

It would be a good idea in the future to give references.



Comment from Karen Christensen
: 2 January 2008, 7:36

It comes from the final verse of the ‘Diamond Sutra’, c. fourth century CE, as translated by Kenneth Saunders, cited in Christmas Humphreys, ed., The Wisdom of Buddhism, London: The Buddhist Society, 1987, p. 122.

Comment from James Plaskett
: 16 December 2009, 11:40

Veni, vidi, VICI, not vinci, Madame.
See my blog.

I note:-
a) My encountering the misquoting of Veni, vidi, vici twice within five hours.

b) That in each case it is associated with Christmas. In John Saunders´ Chessbase piece he chooses an intro about the Norwegian annual Christmas gift. Karen Christensen´s piece is
about a book by David Christian.
The book´s title is taken from a line from a c. fourth century CE work cited by Christmas Humphreys as editor of The Wisdom of Buddhism.

c) Both "misquotes" are in the context of a man conquering the world.

d) In the chess article, John Saunders firstly alters the Caesar quote in a way that I had not seen before and also, if you like, thereby ´mistranslates´ his own Latin quote.
The translation of the Diamond Sutra, as Marci Ziese adds, it is a different (and nicer) translation than any she has seen before. It was made by Kenneth Saunders.

John Saunders´ version of the famous Caesar quote is also unique, but- as he made clear in his comment here - it was (as I suspected it might be) deliberate!

But illustrations of what Peter Vaughan called the Synchronicity of Synchronicity or what Roderick Main termed Synchronicity´s self-referring tendency, i.e the tendency of coincidences to spawn coincidences are provided by subsequent e mails -

Yes, I meant "The great one [Magnus] came, saw and conquered". It is correctly rendered Latin... To say that I am somehow "misquoting" or "mistranslating" Caesar is to impute a level of ignorance on my part of quite staggering proportions. An addendum has... been put... on the ChessBase site just in case other people think I'm a total ignoramus. For the record, I achieved S-Level distinction in Latin, studied it at Cambridge and... taught it at a posh London prep school for a... while (... you may conclude that my reference to "school Latin" was a tad disingenuous). .*

P.S. * actually there IS a coincidence accruing from all this ... I was discussing your 'misquotation' allegation with my wife... Oddly enough, she does a Latin lesson herself every week... Just after our... chat, she needed to look at a website for the residential nursing home where her uncle is being cared for and found this...
... on the right hand side... you will find some testimonials... - in Latin! This is one of the funniest things I have ever seen on the web. What has happened is that the web programmer deputed to set up the page has used a standard template... which... often include Latin so that they can be assessed for suitability. Latin is used for random text. But the idiot... has simply forgotten to replace the Latin gibberish with meaningful text. As I said to the missus... "testimonials in Latin? Just how old are some of the patients?"

And the final (and minor) codicil stems from my reply to John -

... Studied it at Cambridge?...
I got an O Level with Grade B, I´ll have you know!
But the coincidence is still patent - strengthened in fact - and your Missus´ addendum does it no harm. Working on it (and what you commented on at the blog was hardly complete; a magnuS opus still very much under construction!).

When I published - d) In the chess article, John Saunders firstly misquotes Caesar in a way that I had not seen before and also, if you like, thereby mistranslates his own Latin quote. I was very much aware that it might have been deliberate on your part.
Hence the wording " ...if you like thereby mistranslates..."
At Entry 44 we encounter TWO deliberate alterations of Caesar´s famous quote.
The quoted Prof. at Christensen´s site would seem to have just got it wrong.You are now the third deliberate fiddler with the quote. Work still in progress...


His reply -

James ... go and stand in the corner, 'Owl of the Remove' Plaskett Minor - it is 'magnuM opus' - a third declension neuter noun, not second declension masculine. Hmm, perhaps I would have grown into the Mr Chips role after all...
Incidentally I don't believe Caesar had copyright on those three Latin verbs and, even if he did, it would have lapsed a couple of millennia ago. What I choose to do with them isn't 'mis-anything' - it's a play on words, jeux d'esprit or something of that ilk...

My final salvo -

Even I know it´s MagnuM opus.
That was MY deliberate error and play on Latin words.
(Noteworthy that it should have escaped YOU...
Think about it, Teacher...)

Your missus has a codicil re caring and incorrect Latin.
That coincidences so often tend to generate coincidences is, in the categorisation of Dr R. Main, "Synchronicity´s self-referring tendency" i.e. synchronicity is emphasising its essentially spiritual nature.

See... elements of this in Entries 253, 240 point (g), 235, point (e), 224 (linking with Entry 40), 218, 211, 204, 192, 189, 188, 187, 186, 172, 167, 164, 154, and 49.

But the instance of this that might seem most striking to you involves Hartston.
It involves THIRD generation coincidences and is in the
Part Two: The Narrative, Epilogues and Appendices
section, scanning points (45) - (51).

Dr I. Grattan-Guinness.also mentioned the category of ‘Second Order Coincidences’, i.e. those that lead to coincidences, claiming that when a coincidence leads on to another coincidence then it has become an object in its own right.


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