[lit-ideas] Two Lines' Worth ...

  • From: cblists@xxxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Tue, 10 Jul 2012 10:55:48 +0200

On Jul 9, 2012, I submitted an anecdote about a 'commoner' taking advantage of access to Buckingham Palace stationery to pen a note (to his Dad, as it turned out) and being caught by the king after scribbling two lines. I wrote:

Any list members care to give us their two lines worth? (Substitute 'Oval Office" - or some other 'seat of power' for BP if you like. I was thinking briefly of the Vatican but I wouldn't get away with it - no Latin.)

On 10-Jul-12, at 1:31 AM, David Ritchie wrote:

To the Personnel and Tenure Committee,

It is with mixed feelings that I write to announce I will be unable fulfill my contract to teach next semester. Whoever thought but two short months ago that the Whigs would be revived, and that as an obscure historical party they would pick a truly obscure historian to be their candidate? I believed I was embarked on a lark. Now I shall have Mr. Putin trying to teach me judo, while Governor Romney demands a recount. Last year's stint on the Awards and Exhibitions Committee will no doubt stand me in good stead during the coming four years. Please be assured that I shall be happy to fax over whatever documentation is required for a Leave of Absence.

Yours sincerely,

David Ritchie,
The White House

Oddly enough, I'd been just that day reading about the Whig Party (idle curiosity, mixed with still trying to determine, after all these years, the meaning intended by Richard Rorty when he uses the adjective 'Whiggish' in PHILOSOPHY AND THE MIRROR OF NATURE).

I find it interesting to note the difficulty in determining how many Whig presidents there had been before President Ritchie's 'election' (no doubt a great boon to the list, should he deign to remain a contributing member). It depends how you ask the question:

How many members of the Whig party have held the office of President of the United States?

How many members of the Whig party have been elected to the office of President of the United States?

How many persons have been president of the United States while being Whig Party members?


Emboldened by David's - er, that is, President Ritchie's - epistolary efforts, and aided by someone with more Latin than I, I will conduct the thought experiment of access to the stationery, if not office, of the Pope.

My two lines would include, firstly, a sketch of a DARWIN pin fish (about which more, below) and secondly, Daniel Dennett's Latin exposition (again, translation offered below) of DARWIN as an acronym:

Delere Auctorem Rerum Ut Universum Infinitum Noscas.

I somehow doubt that the present pope would laugh. (But I like to think that Angelo Roncalli would have - and invited me in for a cup of wine and a chat.)

Christophorus I,
ex cathedra, in
Kiel Germany

P.S. Here's the Dennett/Darwin pin anecdote:
"I have this little Darwin pin, the fish with legs [and the name DARWIN inscribed in its center], which is a nice parody of the Christian fish. I was wearing this pin at a meeting, and the physicist Murray Gell-Mann, who’s quite a polymath, knows lots of languages, came up to me and said, “Dan, I like your pin. ICHTHYS, the Greek word for fish, is the first acronym. The letters stand for ‘Iesus Christos Theou Yios Soter,--Jesus Christ God Son Savior. The reason they used the fish symbol was that their motto spells the word in Greek.’ He went on: ‘What I want to know is what does DARWIN stand for?’ I thought that was a good question.

"My Greek is almost nonexistent, but Latin, I took a year or two of that. Latin, of course, doesn’t have a “W” but it does have “U.” So I came up with this, for DARUUIN: Delere Auctorem Rerum Ut Universum Infinitum Noscas-- Destroy the Author of things, in order to understand the infinite universe. That is now my motto."

To see the pin and Dennett's explication of it, watch (specifically, starting at 1:04:28, if you don't want to hear Dennett's entire talk):




To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

To change your Lit-Ideas settings (subscribe/unsub, vacation on/off,
digest on/off), visit www.andreas.com/faq-lit-ideas.html

Other related posts: