The First Blush

“We’re so distracted by how things end, we usually forget how beautiful the beginning was.”

— Ryan Vandeput

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Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches

“Nolite te bastardes carborundorum, bitches”
— Margaret Atwood; The Haidmaid’s Tale.

(broken Latin, meaning ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down’)

Many will recognise this quote from Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ (and the subsequent – and epic – Hulu adaptation for the small screen). But where does this ‘fake’ Latin phrase originate? Michael Fontaine, a classics professor from Cornell University; and this blog’s author, Ryan Vandeput, an English Literature Masters Graduate from the University of Leicester, took their best guesses.

“It was likely an old school joke, for those who took Latin class. It’s not really ‘true’ Latin; rather, it sounds like something a school pupil made up for fun. It might even be something Margaret Atwood remembers from her schooling & childhood” surmised Vandeput. Another similar Latin joke phrase with the same supposed translation is “illegitimi non carborundorum,” which Fontaine noted was equally fake—though it’s perhaps a little more legit as Latin, since it at least doesn’t use the made-up “bastardes.”

“Illegitimi is a real Latin word,” Fontaine continues. “It could indeed mean ‘bastards’ (though it’s not the usual word, which is spurius or nothos).”

“My guess is that c. 1890-1900, some American people thought it would be funny to pretend like ‘carborundum’ was actually a Latin word meaning ‘needing to be worn down’ or (making allowances for ignorance, which is surely part of it) ‘to wear down.’ If the phrase was originally illegitimis non carborundum, then the original idea was that ‘there must not be a wearing down (of you) by the bastards,’ or in plain English, ‘don’t let the bastards get you down.’ Either then or soon after, illegitimis would have become illegitimi, which changes the grammar, but most English speakers can’t tell because our grammar doesn’t work that way. That would pretty quickly give you illegitimi non carborundum”

“The key to the mystery is knowing that carborundum was a trade name (for an abrasive scrubbing powder used for cleaning),” he continued. “Whatever it was, it’s not in use any more, so we’ve lost all memory of it. Nowadays it just looks like a strange, broken Latin word to us,” Fontaine concluded.

— Ryan Vandeput, 2018

Ode to Barry Island, by Max Boyce

I remember Miner’s Fortnight when I was just a lad,
We’d go to Barry Island, the weather always bad
In a brand new shirt and shoes that hurt,
The one’s mam saved to buy
To go to Barry Island on that last week in July.

We’d catch a Western by the square, my bucket in my hand
Then all the fuss to get on the bus and we always had to stand Then I’d be sick
And my shoes I’d kick,
The one’s mam saved to buy
To go to Barry Island on that last week in July.

They’d put me by the drivers seat for me to ‘av some air
And my mother’d say, “He’s never this way,”
She’d come and comb my hair
Then I’d see the sea and I’d want to pee
And if I couldn’t I’d cry
When we went to Barry Island on that last week in July.

Our caravan, “The Waters Edge”, 10 miles from the sea!
And we’d drag the cases over and we didn’t have the key
We couldn’t light the gas lamp,
I’ve gone and marked my tie
When I went to Barry Island on that last week in July

I’m on the beach, It’s Sunday I’ve got a friend called Russ
I’ll ave to buy another bucket, Left mine on the bus.
I’ve cut my foot, It’s bleedin
My cousin says, “You’ll die
And we’ll bury you in Barry Island on the last week in July”

I’m going to the fair tonight, my bucket full of o’shells
The weather forecast’s settled now,
with dry and sunny spells
I’ve brought Mangi a present and I’d wave the see goodbye
My mother’s found my plastic mac
and the weather’s nice and dry
Aye, that’s how I remember Miner’s Fortnight,
when I was just a lad
I went to Barry Island and the weather always bad.

~ Max Boyce

Lost at Sea

Turn the other way, look around
Something big’s about to happen
I swear to God that I’ve been here before
And you were here, I guess it’s nothing

Lost at sea
Guess I do know the truth afterall

Stay the current course
No matter what, don’t change for anyone
Say you’ll save a corner of your mind
Cause I think about you all the time

Lost at sea
Guess I do know the truth afterall

And nothing you can do to turn it back around
Is gonna make a difference, it’s done it’s happened now
So take me where you go
Watercolour eyes
And we can start again
You’ll never know if you never try

© Dave Thomas Junior 2013

http://music.davethomasjunior.com/track/lost-at-sea

Lyrics: Sunshine on Leith

My heart was broken, my heart was broken
Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow,
My heart was broken, my heart was broken…

You saw it, You claimed it
You touched it, You saved it…

My tears are drying, my tears are drying
Thank you, Thank you, Thank you, Thank you,
My tears are drying, my tears are drying…

Your beauty and kindness,
Made tears clear my blindness,
While I’m worth my room on this earth,
I will be with you,
While the Chief, puts Sunshine On Leith,
I’ll thank him for his work,
And your birth, and my birth…

My heart was broken, my heart was broken
Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow, Sorrow,
My heart was broken, my heart was broken…

While I’m worth my room on this earth,
I will be with you,
While the Chief, puts Sunshine On Leith,
I’ll thank him for his work,
And your birth, and my birth…