Mad Dogs and Englishmen

madness02hRadio Five Live seems to be obsessed with defining what it means to be British, or English, or Welsh, or Scottish, and runs a poll on the subject every other week, or so it seems.

There are the usual suspects of course — our excessive politeness (although this is a dying art), our patient queuing and our sense of humour.

The other ‘quality’ that always crops up is our eccentricity. A prime candidate would be the bloke that ‘ran’ the London Marathon in a deep-sea diving suit, or the views of Peter Hitchens, but is eccentricity really such a unique national trait? You only have to look at what people will do to get in the Guinness Book of Records to realise that we aren’t the only oddballs on the the planet.

What set me thinking about this was something I read yesterday. In Finland there is a weekly news station that has a listening audience of 75,000, more than any other international Finnish broadcast. And its USP? The news is read entirely in Latin. Have a listen if you don’t believe me.

Latin was a compulsory subject when I started secondaty school. (No quips about it being the national language back then.) I hated it and packed it in when we got to choose other options in the third year since when I have pretty much forgotten all the Latin I knew and have felt much better for it.

But what it is it about the Finns and Latin? There is even a Latin Elvis up there in the land of the midnight sun who has translated his songs into the language of Cato and Cicero. Here are some examples. See if you can work out what they are, answers on the comments page:

Nunc Hic Aut Nunquam

Nunc Aeternitatis

Non Adamare Non Possum

Cor Ligneum

Tenere Me Ama

The point being that we may think that some of our countrymen occasionally behave oddly, but there are folk out there in the rest of the world who make them look positively sane.

Nobody’s prefect. If you find any spelling mistakes or other errors in this post, please let me know by highlighting the text and pressing Ctrl+Enter.

4 comments… Add yours
  • Shooting Parrots 18th February 2007

    Nunc Hic Aut Nunquam – It’s Now or Never

    Nunc Aeternitatis – Surrender

    Non Adamare Non Possum – Can’t Help Falling in Love

    Cor Ligneum – Wooden Heart

    Tenere Me Ama – Love Me Tender

  • Yorkshire Pudding 18th February 2007

    Bugger! I have just been up in our attic looking for my old Latin books and I had managed to translate four song titles only to discover that you have now entered the solutions in your Comments box! My evening’s fun has been well and truly spoilt you bounder!

  • Mosher 20th February 2007

    I saw on the news over here last night that some Aussie just beat the world record for smashing watermelons with his forehead…

    As for English eccentricity, I’m going to walk 1000 miles across Europe in Autumn to raise money for a kid’s charity. And yes, this is a blatant plug! Details on my blog 🙂

  • Blognor Regis 22nd February 2007

    Semi-ironically Nunc Hic Aut Nunquam must be a bit circular then if It’s Now or Never’s tune is a rip off of O Sole Mio.


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