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November 26, 2003

Colorful episodes in history
Posted by Teresa at 12:48 PM *

Hogblog has noted the advent of Archie McPhee’s Pope Innocent III action figure. (I already knew about it. It’s on sale at a shop that’s just down the block from Tor. )

Hogblog is puzzled by the inscription on Pope Innocent III’s scroll, which I believe says Filii Hohenstaufenin, osculamini asinum meum. If I’m not mistaken, that’s “The Holy Roman Emperors can kiss my ass.”

That’d be about right.

Comments on Colorful episodes in history:
#1 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 01:33 PM:

I'm not sure about the Latin; I'm pretty sure "asinus" is "ass" in the pack-animal sense. And "osculamini" feels like the passive voice. But I need to check the dictionary when I get home.

#2 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 02:07 PM:

It's actually "son of Hohenstaufen, kiss my ass", referring to the family of emperors at the time, and the emperor Frederick II in particular.

#3 ::: James D. Macdonald ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 02:21 PM:

Doesn't everyone recall the Crusade against the Hohenstaufen? By golly, that was a colorful episode.

And Frederick II was a colorful guy. Have I ever shown you how, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that he is the 666 referred to in the Apocalypse?

#4 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 03:31 PM:

Filii is a possessive rather than a plural? Then what's the inflection on "Hohenstaufen"? The photo is fuzzy, but there are definitely a couple of extra letters at the end.

Chris, I think you're right. The animal is asinus. Besides, Henry Beard translates "cover your ass" as protege tuam pugam.

Osculamini is beyond me. I know osculum as a noun and basiare as a verb, but that's all.

James, why do I experience a mild sense of alarm whenever you offer to prove something "beyond the shadow of a doubt"?

#5 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 04:34 PM:

Filii might be the 2nd declension vocative, i.e. the form for calling people: "Hey you, son of the Hohenstaufen!" That's sophisticated Latinizing, though, and other bits belie that level of care. "Hohenstaufenin" looks wrong. I'll have to look up "osculare" at home later, but it is the classical Latin for "to kiss"; "basia" and its forms comes into the literary language with Catullus. It may have been street talk earlier. More research to do.

#6 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 06:02 PM:

According to my Cambridge Latin Grammar,
fili with a single long final i is the 2nd declension singular vocative for filius. filii seems to be the 2nd dec plural nominative (and voc) (since genitive doesn't make sense here).
Morwood's Pocket Oxford lists osculor as a 1st conjugation deponent (passive in form, active in meaning) verb meaning I kiss. The plural imperative is apparently osculamini (CLG).

#7 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 06:09 PM:

Okay, it's "sons of Hohenstaufen" ...
and must not refer specifically to Freddie after all.

#8 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 06:28 PM:

I have to agree with Chris that 'Hohenstaufenin' just looks wrong. I can't get it to fit with any of the genitives listed in CLG.

#9 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 06:35 PM:

I'm so glad y'all are better Latinists than I am, because I'm not very good at all.

Is Hohenstaufenin a plural formation in some other language?

#10 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 07:23 PM:

Jon, the curious thing is, Innocent apparently never dealt with more than one Hohenstaufen. According to Wikipedia (not the most trustworthy source, I agree) Heinrich died before Innocent became pope, and Innocent was apparently regent for Frederick until he came of age. Innocent died after finally supporting Frederick against Otto, and it fell to his successor to crown Freddie holy roman emperor. IMNSHO it ought to have been the singular vocative.

Teresa, I don't know how good a Latinist I am. I am really just a geek who for some reason carries grammar and dictionary around with me, and have the skill to read the dictionary. As for what language 'Hohenstafenin' might be, your guess is as good as mine. Greek was popular in the Roman world, but isn't really right for the period.
I can suggest clunis for the kissing object, though...

#11 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 07:52 PM:

"Hohenstaufen" is German, but the "-in" isn't.

#12 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 07:53 PM:

Could it be 'Hohenstaufenen'? I think that would be genitive plural in German (assuming 'Hohenstaufen' is a weak noun).

#13 ::: Jon Meltzer ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 08:21 PM:

It's "in" in the picture.

I don't understand what the author was thinking of: "-in" isn't a Latin ending; and, though, in German it is, making a noun feminine (example: "Lehrerin", female teacher) why use it in the context of an otherwise all-Latin sentence?

#14 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: November 26, 2003, 08:28 PM:

It might be that the author wanted the 3rd declension singular genitive, -is (which is what I, perhaps wrongly, would have chosen, except that I would probably have chosen the plural) and somehow, in error, the final 's' got replaced with an 'n'.

#15 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2003, 12:03 AM:

Stephan, if Innocent III were fighting not just for personal preeminence in his lifetime, but for the principle that the Pope outranked the HREs, the use of the plural would be justified.

By the way, I read dictionaries too. But I had exactly one semester of Latin, plus whatever I've been able to pick up since, so my grasp of its grammar is a tad oversimplified.

Jon, I'm not entirely comfortable admitting conjectural typographical errors to the discussion, but if the creators of that action figure wavered between Hohenstaufenis and Hohenstaufenen but didn't double-check their corrections, they could have come up with an inadvertently hybridized form. Then again, if we admit conjectural typographical errors, anything could have happened.

#16 ::: Lara Beaton ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2003, 12:44 AM:

My Jesus action figure could kick your Pope action figure any day of the week.

And if sunday wasn't a day of rest, he'd kick it twice.

#17 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2003, 01:05 AM:

Not home yet, but some Latin textbooks are at my mother's place, where I in fact am. Stephan Brun is correct re: the form of "osculamini" -- it would be the second person plural indicative passive, except that as a deponent verb, "osculor" is an active verb with a passive structure, so in fact "osculamini" would mean "y'all are kissing."

This -- along with Mr. Brun's comment on "filii" being indeed the plural "sons," and his later comment that "Hohenstaufenin" is probably a typo for the singular genitive "Hohenstaufenis," which makes as much sense as any pseudo-Latin form for that proper name -- would give us "Sons of the Hohenstaufen, you are kissing my donkey."

Which, for all I know, may be an incredibly erudite historical joke that I don't have the Middle Ages chops to get. Or it could just be a sloppy translation.

#18 ::: David Goldfarb ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2003, 04:35 AM:

"osculor" is an active verb with a passive structure, so in fact "osculamini" would mean "y'all are kissing."

Except that "-mini" can also be a plural imperative, as noted above. That reading makes more sense here.

#19 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2003, 05:05 AM:

thank you for correcting me, I missed that point.

undoubtedly your Jesus action figure carries an inscription that says Innocens, fili meus, pugilare asinum tuum omni diebus hebdomadis possum

(By the way, I really wish they would put the instructions for using Latin dictionaries in the dictionaries themselves, rather than in the grammar. It puzzled me greatly back when I was young and clueless.)

#20 ::: James J Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2003, 11:15 AM:

Since we're talking about asses and kissing, and this is such an erudite crowd, I'm looking for some help with a potential St. Patrick's Day thing I'm working on. I'd like to find a Gaelic translation for "Kiss my shiny metal ass!" for a large green Bender. Many thanks, and hope everyone enjoys their tryptophan coma today.

Dr. Paisley

#21 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: November 27, 2003, 10:15 PM:

Re: "osculamini": I checked my dictionaries and David Goldfarb is right, it is the passive imperative as well as the indicative. So "kiss my donkey!" would be correct as well.

There are several Latin expressions for "buttocks": clunes, nates, or puga/pyga. So you can say "kiss my ass" as "osculamini meas clunes/meas nates/meam pugam." My personal fave is "clunes"; I have translated "pulled out of my ass" as "e clunibus tractum" for the obvious parallel. It's as good a motto in these times as any.

#22 ::: Jon H ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2003, 01:14 AM:

Teresa writes: "Then again, if we admit conjectural typographical errors, anything could have happened."

Is there a Doctrine of Papal Action Figure Infallibility?

#23 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2003, 02:06 AM:

Chris -- _clunes_ having plural structure for a singular item, or do you have multiple anal sphincters?

Pulling out of one's ass clearly implies the anus to me, rather than the buttocks -- possibly okay to use metaphorically, but Latin metaphors in our current society are two steps removed from what most people might actually comprehend.

Ah, anatomical pedantry -- can you tell I'm a massage therapist with a degree in Zoology?


#24 ::: Chris Quinones ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2003, 01:32 PM:

"Clunes" means "buttocks"; one "clunis" is one buttock, butt-cheek, what have you. I think of "ass" as synonymous with buttocks, and the idiom is "pulled out of my ass," not "asshole." Don't know if the Romans were metaphorically imprecise in that respect, but in translating an English idiom I don't find it unfair to do so on its own terms.

#25 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2003, 01:41 PM:

Stephan: "Innocent, my son, I can whup your ass any day of the week"?

Jon: No such thing, thank goodness. All I had in mind was that admitting conjectural typographical errors hugely expands the latitude of interpretation.

Is anyone going to have a go at James Murray's "shiny metal ass"?

#26 ::: Eimear Ned Mhe9alf3id ::: (view all by) ::: November 28, 2003, 02:01 PM:

James, I'd suggest "Pf3g mo thf3in miotallach lonnrach". Prounounced approx. as POGUE muh HONE mYUTHolloch LUNroch, with the -chs as in Bach or loch.

The first part just means "kiss my ass" simpliciter, as fans of the band FKA the Pogue Mahones will be aware. There's no good alternative to the boring loan-word "miotal" for metal - while the word for brass was often used to mean metals in general, the adjectival form now means a slapper. "Lonnrach" primarily means glittering, but the main alternative "soilseach" implies beaming out light. has some online searchable dictionaries in all three Gaelic languages for anyone who wants to amuse themselves further.

#27 ::: John S ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 01:45 AM:

So, carpe clunes would translate to seize the ass? What about carpe gluteus?

#28 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 06:56 PM:

Yes, I was trying to translate Ms. Beaton's remark. Sadly, I got the vocative of meus wrong. It's supposed to be mi in the masculine singular. Arrgh. Culpa mea est. I'll just go and kick myself, shall I?

#29 ::: Stephan Brun ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 07:22 PM:

John, I searched Webster's, as I could find no reference to gluteus in my latin dictionaries. Seems that gluteus is derived from Greek gloutos, meaning buttock. That would apparently make carpe gluteum mean seize the butt-cheek. If you want both buttocks, gluteos (accusative pl.) might be the word to pick.

#30 ::: James J. Murray ::: (view all by) ::: November 30, 2003, 08:59 PM:

Thanks, Eimear. Should this particular abomination actually make it out of the planning stage there'll be pics galore.

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 08:50 AM:

Chris, that's an interesting interpretation of 'pulled it out of my ass'. I always assumed that the anus was intended, i.e. the concept so extracted was admittedly shit (in the sense of not being well thought-out).

The only things one can (literally) pull out of one's buttocks are things like arrows, needles, hair etc. I'm unclear on what the metaphor would mean in that case. Can you explain?

#32 ::: Adam Lipkin ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 10:46 AM:

"...on sale at a shop that92s just down the block from Tor."

Teresa, what shop is it? Where? What other oddities would they have?

#33 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 01, 2003, 07:49 PM:

Went to Loscon 30 (technically not in L.A., but in Burbank for the final year), where the best panel I saw was about Heinlein. There was a dramatic reading of the new/oldest Heinlein novel "For Us, the Living" by Michael Cassutt and two others (Aleta Jackson, a space activist; and the Exec. Producer of Puppet Masters).

Much debate on what Heinlein movies SHOULD be made, with several dismissed as "too much talk." I spoke up for "My Dinner with Andre" and my wife wondered where we could buy "My Dinner with Andre Action Figures"... Starship Troopers II predicted (by me) to be ultraviolent, as directed by Phil Tippett. Live reading from Heinlein Biography, too.

Hope you had a Happy Thanksgiving.

#34 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: December 02, 2003, 01:48 AM:

Adam, it's solid oddities, front to back, top to bottom, side to side ... and I don't remember its name. It's on the south side of 23rd. You can't miss it.

#35 ::: rea ::: (view all by) ::: December 03, 2003, 06:53 PM:

What you are all overlooking is that Innocent III probably didn't speak very good Latin . . . :)

#36 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2003, 12:31 AM:

Anyway, wasn't it Pope Sylvester II, a.k.a. Gerbert, who was considered the most highly educated man in Europe, circa 1000 A,D., and who is credited with introducing the Abacus to Europe? I'd like an action figure of him, maybe part of the set of the 3 most brilliant people alive exactly 1000 years ago, the other 2 being, I believe, Omar Khayyam and Al-Hazen.

In any past century, who are, say, the 10 people you'd most like to hang out with and talk to at a party?

#37 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2003, 12:53 AM:

Fun game idea, JVP, but I'm afraid I think that the ten people I'd most like to hang with in any century are one step removed from anyone I've ever heard of.

Using the 20th C as a marker -- TNH, who everyone here has heard of. Carol Ladas-Gaskin. R. Lionel Fanthorpe. Ted Sturgeon (okay, he's pretty well known). Jane Robinson. Rich Dutcher. Elise Matthesen (also known here). Candy Soderstrom Davis (the for-fee editor I alluded to earlier on Open Thread 12). Laurie Gottlieb Edison. If I want to add someone famous, Gregory Bateson.

People I've never met are likely to have significantly different interests, in terms of party and hanging, than those I have met. Crafting a group of 10 people who would have a conversation that would be likely to knock my socks off -- that's a much more fun exercise, and one that feels more achievable.

Who are the ten people you've met, or feel you know the most about, who you'd love to have a 4 hour conversation with?


#38 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: December 06, 2003, 02:44 AM:

Dear Tom,

You countergamingly ask: "Who are the ten people you've met, or feel you know the most about, who you'd love to have a 4 hour conversation with?"

One-on-one conversation can be heaven, but I think that an intimate party of N people can have N! conversations, sparking off each other... Or at least N(N-1)/2, So maybe heaven-squared.

Well, to start with someone from your list that I co-wrote with, and continue with others I met and conversed with repeatedly and miss continuing conversation, all of whom knew more than a little about, all now passed on, alas:

(1) Theodore Sturgeon;
(2) Dr. Timothy Leary [spent time with him at Hacker 2.0 or Hackers 4.0, remember introducing my wife to him at a Norman Spinrad party);
(3) Dr. Herman Kahn [head of Rand, founded Hudson Institute; dated his daughter];
(4) Prof. Richard Feynman [co-author with, many wonderful days together];
(5) Jerry Garcia (amazingly intelligent, insightful, picked my vrain for hour about Astrronomy; and I actually saw him decline an offer of free narctoics, backstage once);
(6) Dr. Carlos Castenada (discussed the problems he had with his first book as Ph.D. dissertation: his committee demanded his field notes];
(7) Allan Ginsberg [again, many times together, corresponded; on stage together; alternately extremely funny & profound];
(8) Poul Anderson [vastly well read, consummate gentleman; many times together, always kind];
(9) Prof. Isaac Asimov [bought stories from me for anthology, I brought him on as my Guest of guest" on the NBC-TV Todat Show; life of the party, yet, I thought, always sad inside];
(10-tie) Marianne Moore, poet, neighbor of mine;
(10-tie) Prof. Claude Shannon, founder of Information Theory, [several times in conversation with him and, once, his wife].

I am an arrogant, egotistical person in many ways, yet I know that I am clearly lesser than any of these 10, yet all were generous with their time and attention. I'd almost be content to be silent in that imaginary party, and yet I know that I could quote any one to any other and provoke a fascinating thread...

I still have many friends, but these indicate how deep the void in my life from notable people I knew, now gone, before I even get into my immediate family, once so large, now so diminished. I think I would go mad without the love of my wife and son, and the conversations with smart, empathetic people on-line and through literature.

But the people from other centuries... That's maybe heaven-cubed. And why, sometimes late in life, we enjoy reading History, or at least Historical Novels...

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