(I really ought to have a classics-related icon for posts like this. Any suggestions from the audience?)
There’s a scene in Diana Wynne Jones’ novel A Tale of Time City wherein Vivian, who is an ordinary girl from WWII England, is assigned to translate a text written in the “universal symbols” of Time City. She does an entertainingly bad job of it, and gets mocked by her tutor.
I probably wasn’t supposed to take that as inspiration, was I?
See, years ago, when kurayami_hime and I were taking Latin in high school, we were given Catullus 3 to translate, along with a vocabulary list to look up before we began. The first word on that list was passer, which, according to my dictionary, meant “sparrow” (the poem being a mock-eulogy for his girlfriend’s dead bird) . . . and also “flounder.”
Inspired by this, and also by the number of our classmates who had mis-translated a line of Ovid’s about “small things capture the minds of young girls” as “girls like to capture small animals” (they mistook anima for animal), kurayami_hime and I produced the following travesty, which our Latin teacher promptly stole, posted on the board, and only gave us photocopies of several years later; the original remains in her possession.
Wear mourning clothes, oh highest toss of the dice and greedy ones,
and how many there are of men who are endowed like Venus: my girl has killed her fish,
that fish, the crime of my girl, which loved her more than her flower buds —
for there was honey for her and the mother knew herself so well that she was a girl,
neither that one moving himself from the center, but running around how this how that,
to the sun of the house and chirping: which now plows again through Tenebricus,
where waves decline as they return there, and you are a bad apple, evil pigs of low birth,
where everyone loves war, so war to me seems like a fish.
O apple fact! O evil fish! Now you sing an opera so that my girl is crying
and swollen because there is rhubarb in her eyes.
And but so anyway, I read that to some people last night, and was told I should post it here for the entertainment of others. Thus I give it to you. My apologies to all the Latinists who are now bleeding from the eyeballs.