Tuesday, 1 December 2009

Yes, Prime Minister: The National Education Service

Another bit of dialogue from Yes, Prime Minister (basically, the last two series of Yes, Minister, in which Jim has been promoted!) which I talked about briefly during my paper the other week:

Hacker: That's not the point. Look at Latin. Hardly anybody knows that now.
Humphrey: Tempora mutantur, nos et mutamur in illis.
Hacker: What?
Humphrey: Times change and we change with the times.
Hacker: Precisely.
Humphrey: Si tacuisses, philosophus manisses.
Hacker: What does that mean?
Humphrey: If you'd kept your mouth shut, we might have thought you were clever.
Hacker: I beg your pardon?
Humphrey: Not you, Prime Minister. That's the translation.
Bernard: No one would have thought Sir Humphrey was saying that about you.
Humphrey: Go away, Bernard, please.
Hacker: I can't believe it. You had a strict academic upbringing. Are you denying the value of it?
Humphrey: What's the use of it? I can't even call upon it in conversation with the Prime Minister of Great Britain!

Hacker has been arguing that the edcuation system needs reform, but Humphrey disagrees, so ends up slighting his own classical education while at the same time reinforcing his conviction that he much cleverer (and much better educated) than Hacker. He does it agian a little later, when Hacker says 'QED' and he can't resist adding 'quod erat demonstrandum'. I've talked about classics and the British education system before: like Jim Hacker, I would love to see more Latin taught in schools and prevent it from being something valued only by the rich and privileged.

The brilliance, and at the same time, the most depressing thing about Yes, (Prime) Minister is that you can choose any epsiode at random and the chances are, it will be discussing something that is still an issue today. We have moved on very little from the early 1980s (except in certian areas - it's actually quite encouraging to remember that apartheid has ended and Northern Ireland is in a much better state than it was when I was a child). For the most part, though, we are still having exactly the same arguments as we were back then, and this is one of them. I think we've made some progress though, and hopefully the best is yet to come!

As a random aside, while looking for this quote, I also found this on Wikipedia:

Quidquid Latine dictum sit altum videtur - "whatever has been said in Latin seems deep". Or "anything said in Latin sounds profound". A recent ironic Latin phrase to poke fun at people who seem to use Latin phrases and quotations only to make themselves sound more important or "educated". Similar to the less common omnia dicta fortiora si dicta Latina.

This made me laugh. Very true, and something I'm looking into at the moment - the bizarre notion that things sound more important in Latin. Part of the subject of a paper I hope to write soon...

1 comment:

  1. The dialogue is hilarious! I love it. Maybe I should memorise some of these Latin phrases!



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