Sunday, May 3, 2009

Veni, Vidi, Mori

The other day a huge debate ensued at this household because, thanks to something on TV or in the New York Times, I protested because the speaker or the author translated Caesar’s Veni, vidi, vici, as “I came, I saw, I conquered.” — “No way!” I cried. “I went, I saw, I conquered.” Brigitte begged to differ. And we were off. The truth is that two things temporarily disabled me. One was that Caesar had gone to Gaul, not come to the territory. The other was my very faulty memory according to which the French venir meant go rather than come. Off I stormed to marshal witnesses in print. Unfortunately I have two places of work, one upstairs and one in the basement, both chuck full of reference volumes that, as life would have it, often change places as I drag them from place to place. Thus I had the devil of a time discovering even one of my three Latin dictionaries. One is Latin-German, another Latin-French. Four trips up and down. Cursing in Hungarian—a language whose powers of sexual sacrilege are second to none. At last I found the Latin-English, alas also the smallest, but it had the word. I looked it up. Thus, in a way, I went, I saw—and I died. Arriving in the kitchen, I muttered in tones barely audible: “Well, looks like I was off the beam on that one.” Brigitte gracefully continued chopping carrots and never even gave me that look. But this episode once more proves that in any competition with her on the spelling or meaning of words, withdrawal is the best defense.


  1. Veni, vidi, vocabularii - I came, I saw, I looked up words.

  2. I bet you couldn't find "mori." I couldn't! But since it works in Italian, I guessed that it might work in Latin too.