By inthegobi, in 'Latin to English Translation', Jun 17, 2008.
Ah! I haven't seen the movie actully, I just heard the phrase on tv and they didn't mention the Chinese origin.
Does anyone know what this proverb is in the original?
... and those who there once were, would never want to return.
This is by no means the final word on the matter, and I can't vouch for the absolute accuracy of my information, but there is a novel by a famous Chinese writer, Qian Zhongshu, first published in 1947, called 围城 (in translation Fortress Besieged）. It was also made into a Chinese film and TV series.
The title of the novel is supposed to be taken from a French proverb, which has actually become the most famous quote from the book: 婚姻是被围困的城堡，城外的人想冲进去，城里的人想逃出来。(in translation "Marriage is like" etc). I don't know whether the proverb is quoted in the Chinese novel in Chinese or French. The reason it appears in the novel to begin with is apparently to do with the fact that one or more of the characters in the book used to study in Europe, and learned the quote from that time.
If we want to call it a Chinese proverb, I suppose we can do, because it has a certain currency in China today, though this only began to be the case after the novel made it famous.
The biggest questions remaining are whether it really is originally a French proverb (and, if not, what language?), and who is recorded as having first used it.
Now, to get my hands on a copy of that novel...
Update. I've found the novel online. The quote occurs in chapter 3. It is written in Chinese, almost as quoted above*, with the two French words fortresse** (sic) assiégée given in the midst of the Chinese. Interestingly, the character who cites this as a French proverb does so as a counterquote to another character who has just cited a supposedly English proverb on a similar theme (birds in gilt cages). No names are given of either the French or the English originators of the respective proverbs, so the search for these has just stepped up a notch.
法国也有这么一句话。不过，不说是鸟笼，说是被围困的城堡, fortresse assiégée, 城外的人想冲进去 , 城里的人想逃出来。
"He cited an old English expression, which says that marriage is like a gilded bird cage: the bird outside the cage wants to fly in; the bird inside the cage wants to fly out. So there is marrying and divorcing, divorcing and marrying without end".
"France has a similar expression, but it's not about a bird cage, it's about a besieged castle, fortresse assiégée: people outside the castle want to get in, people inside the castle want to get out".
**The online novel gives the spelling "fortresse" rather than the expected "forteresse". I don't know what spelling the printed first edition has.
P.S. I can't get rid of the bold formatting on one or two of the Chinese characters; it's not there for any reason I can account for.
Well researched! A pity though, I had hoped it was one of the four character sayings...
Some of the best laughs I had in latin class were from reading about the adventures of emperor Pupienus Maximus
Not quite a joke as such, but it's in the area, and not a bad way of teaching declension besides. The rhymes work in the pronunciation that AD Godley, the author, was brought up in, and which only survives sporadically in modern England.
What is this that roareth thus?
Can it be a Motor Bus?
Yes, the smell and hideous hum
Indicat Motorem Bum!
Implet in the Corn and High
Terror me Motoris Bi:
Bo Motori clamitabo
Ne Motore caedar a Bo—
Dative be or Ablative
So thou only let us live:—
Whither shall thy victims flee?
Spare us, spare us, Motor Be!
Thus I sang; and still anigh
Came in hordes Motores Bi,
Et complebat omne forum
Copia Motorum Borum.
How shall wretches live like us
Cincti Bis Motoribus?
Domine, defende nos
Contra hos Motores Bos!
And a cryptic crossword clue from the incomparable Brian Greer: In which three couples get together for sex (5)
(I'll post the answer if it anyone needs it, but the context should make it fairly obvious.)
Sorry, should have done a search and discovered that this had been posted before. Though it was some time ago.
I'll assume that everyone thinks that the clue is so easy that the answer goes without saying, or that cryptic crosswords are beneath contempt.
Is the answer just 'Latin'? quia ter bini sunt sex
Unfortunately, yes. (Well, I did say it was probably obvious from the context.) But much less so in the course of a standard puzzle, so a classic of its kind.
I like it. It's clever in its own way.
I like it too, thanks for sharing. It has its magic.
Probably the lamest joke ever, but in my Latin class I had a friend named Ravi who we started calling Ro, Rare, Ravi... The consensus was that this verb means "to be annoying".
That reminds me of an article I read in the UK's Guardian several years ago about the supposed revival of Latin. The author wittered wittily about not being able to take Bono seriously any more, now that he knew the guy was introducing himself in the ablative. He then went on to speak about Michael Portillo's name - Tory minister under Thatcher https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Michael_Portillo - and how his name, Portillo, was a perfectly formed finite verb meaning 'I bombard', but that the verb was defective, defective in all its parts in fact, and went 'portillo, repatriare, bastardus sum'.
I don't suppose you have a link? It sounds tantalising, but I don't remember it and can't find it. If it dates from Portillo's time in office, it may not be online, I suppose.
I don't have a link, but somewhere at home I do have a photocopy of it! If I find it any time soon, I'll scan and post the article. It was all very jolly, describing the genteel retired ladies reviving Latin and their scalloped spoons for eating sherry trifle at tea-break. I'm sure it does go back to Portillo's time in office, or shortly thereafter when he was still in the popular mind.
I can't say I've noticed much of a revival, then or now. Though there is the Latin crossword in the Saturday Times, of course, which only goes back a few years.
There seems to be a fundamental difference to adult Latin learning, and possibly other subjects, between the UK and the US. In both countries there are large numbers of people who didn't have the option of taking Latin at school. For most, it isn't something they think about often, if ever, but some seem to want to remedy that particular deficiency. In America, they do so. Over here, they tell mournful tales of being the victim of a classridden system that denied them classical learning. When asked what's stopping them from learning it now, they don't answer as such, but look soulfully towards the horizon, where perhaps a more enlightened day may eventually dawn.
I can't believe it. I found that article within ten seconds of looking for it! It dates from January, 1996, when Portillo was serving under John Major. I'll see if I can get it scanned at work in the morning. In fact, there were two articles which I had confused. The other was from the same month but published in the Independent. That had the tweedy old dears in it.
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