June 7, 2013

"The headteacher of a Cambridge sixth form has defended an exam question which gave teenagers a raunchy description of sexual intercourse."

"Cambridge exam board OCR asked AS-level Latin candidates about Ovid’s Amores, in which the poet tells his mistress she can sleep with other men."

The students are 16 or 17 years old. Here's the controversial passage, translated:
“...slip off your chemise without a blush and let him get his thigh well over yours. And let him thrust his tongue as far as it will go into your coral mouth and let passion prompt you to all manner of pretty devices. Talk lovingly. Say all sorts of naughty things, and let the bed creak and groan as you writhe with pleasure. But as soon as you have got your things on again, look the nice demure little lady you ought to be, and let your modesty belie your wantonness. Bamboozle society, bamboozle me; but don’t let me know it, that’s all; and let me go on living in my fool’s paradise.”
Bamboozle, eh? Where was this translated? India? I'm just remembering the "Author's Note" to the novel "The Life of Pi":
When I told a friend who knew the country well of my travel plans, he said casually, "They speak funny English in India. They like words like bamboozle." I remembered his words as my plane started its descent towards Delhi, so the word bamboozle was my one preparation for the rich, noisy, functioning madness of India. I used the word on occasion, and truth be told, it served me well. To a clerk at a train station, I said, "I didn't think the fare would be so expensive. You're not trying to bamboozle me, are you?" He smiled and chanted, "No sir! There is no bamboozlement here. I have quoted you the correct fare."
The (unlinkable) OED on the etymology of "bamboozle":
Appears about 1700; mentioned in the Tatler No. 230 (on ‘the continual Corruption of our English Tongue’) among other slang terms (banter, put, kidney, sham, mob, bubble, bully, etc.) recently invented or brought into vogue. Probably therefore of cant origin; the statement that it is a Gipsy word wants proof.

78 comments:

Simon said...

Is bamboozle an odd word in America? I used it in a comment elsewhere within the last week.

ironrailsironweights said...

Coral mouth. Nice term. Especially if it's a fringed coral mouth, if you catch my drift.

Peter

Palladian said...

I don't consider "bamboozle" to be an odd word.

And that's a dreadful, clunky translation of Ovid.

El Pollo Raylan said...

Gotta wonder how Ovid describe her gravid.

edutcher said...

"Bamboozle" is an old word, as in archaic; you won't find it used anywhere but Westerns.

And sixth form would be 17 - 18, senior year in senior high, unless they start first grade at age 5. A 16 year old would have had to skip a year.

ironrailsironweights said...

Coral mouth. Nice term. Especially if it's a fringed coral mouth, if you catch my drift.

Consider it drifted.

Craig Howard said...

Well, if scholarly links to the etymology of "bamboozle" are what we want, then here we go!

Ain't English great?

Palladian said...

No wonder it seems a fusty translation; it was done in the 1920s by J. Lewis May.

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...

Very happy that some kids are still learning Latin.

My high school offered it as a pet project of the eccentric languages teacher, but only as an independent study and only after school in addition to a regular schedule. I started it, but dropped the class at the semester due to being overextended. Still pull out my Wheelock's from time to time and browse through it, and use it to teach my own kids some basics.

And I started to get at bit grumpy about the sexytalk at school business, but the word bamboozlement made me happy again.

OT to Palladian--is your print store up and running again?

wyo sis said...

“The students really engage in the way the emotion is being conveyed through the poetry in a way they can’t if they are studying farming practices or bee-keeping.”

Of course there is no passage available between these two extremes through which they could engage in emotion.
The passage isn't all that bed unless they're only quoting the less racy parts.

Actually this little piece is the best news I've seen today. It's sort of comforting to know people still get caught up in emotions from reading Ovid.

Michael K said...

Oral cancer lies that way. Maybe there should be a warning tattooed somewhere.

When I was in the Air Force, one sick call incident was a lady with teeth marks in the region of the "coral mouth." The perp was of the same sex, I believe. They were both active duty even though it was almost 35 years before DADT.

Mary Martha said...

Bamboozle is a fun word to pull out on occasion for comic effect.

I took Latin at a Catholic HS. The 'dirty' passages in 2nd semester Sr. year were like dessert after years of translating Ceasers Gallic Wars and Ciceros Orations Against Cataline.

My friends who took Spanish and French never got to translate anything racy (nor did they have to translate war dispatches or political speeches)

Revenant said...

"Raunchy"? Seriously?

There was raunchier material on the Benny Hill show thirty years ago.

Bob said...

My favorite word as a 16-year old Latin student was "circummingo."

rhhardin said...

Sixth form is code for 12th grade.

edutcher said...

Senior year, we had to translate the Aeneid, cover to cover.

The big scene where Dido and Aeneas finally get it on led to some interpretations that can only be described as scaling the heights of creativity and fevered imagination.

edutcher said...

rhhardin said...

Sixth form is code for 12th grade.

Maybe why 12th grade has always sounded so juvenile to me.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think the passage is fine for that age. "Raunchy" is a stretch.

Tim said...

So, the takeaway is, Ovid wanted his rivals to catch HPV-16 or 18.

What a bastard.

Freeman Hunt said...

I remember liking the movie Bamboozled when it came out.

James Pawlak said...

Sound like "Contributing To The Delinquency Of Minors".

Synova said...

I don't necessarily read that as giving permission so much as a request that one not rub his face in it.

As for the level of raunch... not really... unless we figure "coral mouth" is somewhere south.

Methadras said...

In the words of Yul Brynner, "So let it be written, so let it be done!!!"

Michael said...

Raunchy is Seutonius on Tiberius in retirement on Capri. A favorite of mine all those years ago.

Quaestor said...

Appears about 1700; mentioned in the Tatler No. 230 (on ‘the continual Corruption of our English Tongue’) among other slang terms (banter, put, kidney, sham, mob, bubble, bully, etc.) recently invented or brought into vogue.

Put?

Surfed said...

Sister Dominica never taught us that passage in four years of interminable Latin classes. Veni, vedi, vici indeed.

Chip Ahoy said...

Hornswoggle society, hornswoggle me, flimflam and fool me, hoodwink and humbug me, but don’t let me know it, that’s all; and let me go on living in my fool’s paradise.”

YoungHegelian said...

At a graduation party for the daughter of a friend of the family, my wife & I spoke to one of the young lady's classmates who had just finished with four years of HS Latin. I asked her what she had read, and she said "Ovid, Martial, Catullus"

I asked "Even the naughty stuff?"

She said "Yeah, some of it."

I was surprised but probably shouldn't be. It may have been raunchy back in the day, but the stuff that I see now on TV is now far worse. There's some stuff on "30 Rock" or "Family Guy" that's so obscene I think it gets by because they just assume that so few people will get it, e.g. like naming the head of Standards & Practices on "30 Rock" "Mr. Felching".

Simon said...

I Have Misplaced My Pants said...
"Very happy that some kids are still learning Latin."

Yes, quite. That's probably the best news here: The students were being taught latin and were able to be titillated. I'm probably about a year into somewhat serious (and occasionally diligent) study of it; a fabulous language.

Ambrose said...

What, the Romans had sex? I never knew.

Simon said...

Lingua elegans, pro aetate humaniore. Ante tempora obscura... ante Imperium.

VanderDouchen said...

Malcom X disagrees that bamboozle is an archaic word.

Racist.

elkh1 said...

"Bamboozle society, bamboozle the press; but don’t let them know it, that’s all; and let them go on living in their fool’s paradise.”

That's what Obama's been doing all along.

Malta1565 said...

"But as soon as you have got your things on again, look the nice demure little lady you ought to be, and let your modesty belie your wantonness. Bamboozle society, bamboozle me; but don’t let me know it, that’s all; and let me go on living in my fool’s paradise.”

A Jedi in the street but a Sith in the sheets.

Basta! said...

British translations of Latin works used to translate the raunchy parts into Greek. Since most of the elite public school Brit guys had taken Greek and Latin from elementary school on, this allowed them to maintain the veneer of modesty as they snickered away, while the rest of us were left going: you bastards!

Lem said...

the statement that it is a Gipsy word wants proof.

Bamboozle has nothing to do with bosoms? maybe.

Artificially puffed up bosoms?

You think you were with a woman with big bosoms and then when everything came off you find out you had been bamboozled.

Stuff that must have happened.

Michelle Dulak Thomson said...

edutcher,

"Bamboozle" is an old word, as in archaic; you won't find it used anywhere but Westerns.

Oh, horsepucky. It's perfectly current.

rcommal said...

"Bamboozle" is a word I heard from earliest childhood (meaning, I can't recall NOT knowing the word).

Also: Chaucer. Chunks of Shakespeare. Song of Solomon (but not just that). Ovid, yeah, + much more.

All of which literature and history, just for example, encountered younger than 16-17. (That old?)

chuck said...

I've been told that one of the virtues of being educated by Jesuits is a thorough grounding in Latin. Knowing the language opens up a whole world of really good stuff.

Simon said...

elkh1 said...
"That's what Obama's been doing all along."

They say a fanatic is one who can't change his mind and won't change the subject.

Gene said...
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Gene said...

America has never outgrown its nutty repressed Puritan roots. If it's not some hyper politically correct college administrator wanting a guy to get explicit permission before unbuttoning a girl's blouse, it's some right wing mouth breather unhinged by sexual allusion, even if it's a 2000 year old quote from classical Rome.

Lem said...

When I first read the title of this post I thought it said the headscratcher...

Not used to seeing head and teacher together like that.

rcommal said...

Huh. Sometimes stuff converges. Weird, or not; eh, never mind.

Bricks, bats, both?


Lem said...

Hi Simon. Its good to hear from you...

Paul Zrimsek said...

Even some of us right-wing mouth breathers know that America, whatever its faults, contains neither sixth forms nor AS-level exams. This happened in England.

gpm said...

We didn't read the naughty stuff in class at my Jesuit high school in Chicago in the late 60s and early 70s, but the library had the Loeb versions (Latin on one side of the page, English on the other). Back then, if there was just a single naughty word (usually "mentula"), they just blanked it out, but the really raunchy stuff was translated into Italian rather than English. So, by searching out the Italian stuff, you knew where it got down and dirty but, unless you knew lewd Italian(!), you then had to do the work of figuring out the Latin. Very educational! One thing you learned was that, like the Greeks, Latin had everyday words for stuff that required some effort to explain in English (one that comes to mind, if I'm remembering correctly, was "irrumabo," which popped up (perhaps not the right word) in Catullus).

There was also a third and fourth year elective Greek class (taught by a teacher no longer teaching, but still hanging on in his 90s) that was close to a one-on-one class. I still kick myself for not having taken it. Studied some Greek in college, and it's so much more fun, elegant, filthy, and everything else than Latin.

--gpm

jimbino said...

When a woman pledges you her love, write it on air, write it on running water.

Vidi, Vici, Veni.

Augie Fartro said...

Made me so hot I had to reach for the Vornado 660!

Gene said...

This happened in England.

You're right and I'm wrong. I was done in by the mention of Cambridge, which I assumed was the American one.

dreams said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
kcom said...

"This happened in England."

You know the Puritans came from England, right? QED. It's all America's fault for making them come here with their repressed British ways.

Paul Zrimsek said...

"Bamboozle" has a Menckenish sound to it. It's something you do to the booboisie with your brummagem buncombe.

William said...

I remember a time when we were so starved for pornography that we actually had to read great literature to consume it. Is there even such a thing as a dirty book nowadays? O mores, o tempores.

Lem said...

I remember a time when we were so starved for pornography that we actually had to read great literature to consume it.

When I kid in DR I remember adults being very fond of El Cantar de los Cantares De Salomon

James said...

And sixth form would be 17 - 18, senior year in senior high, unless they start first grade at age 5. A 16 year old would have had to skip a year.

I went to school under the U.K. system and we started school at 3 years 9 months. The progression went like this:
Preparatory A
Preparatory B
First Standard
Second Standard
Third Standard
Fourth Standard
At the end of Fourth Standard (typically 10 or 11 years old) we took a national examination called the "Common Entrance" to determine high school placement.

High school consisted of First through Fifth forms; at the end of Fifth form we took the University of London GCE 'O' Levels which determined whether you could go on to Sixth Form but formal education for most kids ended with Fifth form graduation (I was 15 when I completed it).

'O' Levels are the rough equivalent to AP classes; U.S. colleges typically accept passing grades in five 'O' level subjects for entrance.

Sixth form is code for 12th grade.

No its not. In the English system the majority of students complete high school with Fifth Form. Sixth Form is for academically gifted kids who intend to go on to university and it is for two years divided between Lower Sixth and Upper Sixth forms. These were university level classes
which concluded with the University of London "A" Level exams. From there its off to university to spend three years reading for a degree.

William said...

There were some who read the Bible for the good parts, but I never got into it. It was like flirting with a nun--at a certain level you felt it would be wrong to get into the habit.

Simon said...

Hi Lem, and thanks; I hope all is well. Things have just been very busy lately, we've been moving house and I had an incredibly ill-timed writing project that had to be done at the same time. So long quarters 1 and 2 of 2013. ;)

William, it's "O tempora, o mores." They're the vocative plurals of the third declension nouns tempus and mos.

William said...

How soon we forget the vocative plurals of the third declension. If you don't spend at least one day a week reading Cicero it all just evaporates.

Mumpsimus said...

@Simon: non "ante Imperium."

Ovid lived in the reigns of Augustus and Tiberius.

El Pollo Raylan said...

When I was growing up, my mom belonged to the Doubleday Book-Of-The Month Club. She lent a neighbor a copy of "Portnoy's Complaint" and he returned it to her sleeved in a brown paper bag. She never let me read it, but I was curious and never forgot that.

Simon said...

Mumpsimus, I realize that, but I'm quoting (or rather paraphrasing) Kenobi, who lived in the reign of Palpatinus. :)

Mumpsimus said...

Ah, so you were. My apologies.

exiledonmainst said...

"right wing mouth breathers?"

First of all, Gene, this happened in England, genius boy.

Secondly, I recall reading that passage in a Catholic high school Latin class 30 years ago. Nobody freaked.

The kids in most Democrat and union-ruled public high schools are not close to reading Latin. They're struggling to make it through "Heather Has Two Mommies."

Gene said...

It's all America's fault for making them come here with their repressed British ways.

I thought the British threw the Puritans out because they were such fanatics they were going around murdering people who disagreed with them.

Gene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
exiledonmainst said...

Gene, you haven't explained why this passage is creating a fuss in ENGLAND, not America.

After all, didn't the English get rid of those nasty Puritans?

(Who settled in New England and, as historian David Hackett Fischer has noted, their worldview continues to influence "liberal" New England, although it is now unmoored from its' Christian foundations. You have the same smug sanctimony in New England you had in 1700 - but now the sanctimony is focused on people who may harbor un-PC thoughts.)

Gene said...

I recall reading that passage in a Catholic high school Latin class 30 years ago. Nobody freaked.

I should think not. Gay priests don't read paeans to heterosexual love.

The kids in most Democrat and union-ruled public high schools are not close to reading Latin. They're struggling to make it through "Heather Has Two Mommies."

The public blames poor achievement in public schools today on poor teachers, the teachers blame it on lack of money and everyone blames it on racism. But nobody ever brings up the real problem--the poor quality of students today compared to former times.

exiledonmainst said...


"I should think not. Gay priests don't read paeans to heterosexual love."

Huh? Most of my teachers were nuns or lay teachers with excellent credentials. I have to think back to the 3rd or 4th grade to remember when a priest taught us.

Gene, do you actually know anything about Catholic school education or are you just pulling shit out of your ass?

And you still haven't addressed the mistake you made earlier. You used Althouse's story as an excuse to rip on PURITAN America.

But this story is from England. Gene, Gene, can you tell us why "puritans" exist in England, or are you going to continue with "Oh, look, a squirrel!"

It's apparent you know absolutely nothing about Catholic schooling. A lazy thinker public school boy like you would have been hung out to dry.


stlcdr said...

As noted, there is a lower sixth and an upper sixth form.

Lower sixth would be ages 16 to 17. Upper, 17 to 18. One would leave upper sixth to go to university/college or (rarely!) a job.

If this is an actual exam, it would be upper sixth (17 to 18). If an advancement exam - to determine if you are competent enough to continue to upper sixth - then obviously 16 to 17 years old.

Things may have changed, now; and is likely, as the british school system seems to be adopting the asinine SAT style tests.

As far as the question, well, it may well be less than appropriate, but ancient [sic] literature is becoming less and less appropriate (for various, mostly political, reasons) as the years pass.

stlcdr said...

exiledonmainst said...
"right wing mouth breathers?"

First of all, Gene, this happened in England, ....


I'm sure they have 'right wing mouth breathers' in England, too. :)

"I say, old chap, do you think this passage is a little raunchy for the younger chaps?"

I like to perpetuate English stereotypes because it's all they really have going for them - they aren't as smart as they think they are. Once they fix their teeth and get rid of the Queen, they'll be as irrelevant as an ant in a termite mound.

Rusty said...

69 comments. teehee(snort)

Craig said...

Bamboozlement

Something accomplished with a few drinks and a three foot length of cane that may or may not leave marks.

n.n said...

The official reduction of a human life, and dignity, to the sum of its parts. There are many ways to devalue a human life. Methods of indoctrination are most effective before we are capable of discerning and questioning their legitimacy.

Martin said...

If "bamboozle" really is originally a Gypsy word, then it makes sense that it's popular in India, which is where the Gypsies aka Roma came from in the first place.

Joe said...

When I was sixteen and seventeen, I read far raunchier stuff than that, but few so badly written. That's the true offense.

Dr Weevil said...

It's not badly written, it's horribly horribly translated. Here's a fairly literal version, partially borrowed from George Goold's 1977 revision of Grant Showerman's Loeb translation (from the preceding context "there" = in bed):

"There do not be ashamed to lay aside your tunic, nor to place your thigh under a thigh laid on it;
there let tongue be buried in rosy lips, and let love shape Venus in a thousand ways;
there let neither pleasing/helpful sounds nor words cease, and let the bedframe tremble with lascivious motion!
"Put on with your tunic a face that shrinks from accusations, and let modesty deny the lewd deed;
deceive the public, deceive me; let me wander unaware, and allow me to enjoy foolish credulity!"

There's no specific reference to oral sex, but the "thousand ways" would obviously include it implicitly.

Gene said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gene said...

exiledonmainst: do you actually know anything about Catholic school education or are you just pulling shit out of your ass?

And you still haven't addressed the mistake you made earlier. You used Althouse's story as an excuse to rip on PURITAN America.


Well, you obviously didn't read all my comments before jumping on your intestinal gas-powered keyboard, because in a previous post I did humbly admit to confusing confusing the American Cambridge with the English one.

As you surmise, I went to a public school for my academic education (public schools were better then), but I spent enough time in the summers sitting in Catholic school classrooms that I can at least comment on Catholic religious education. It reminded me of listening to fairy tales and then being forced to pretend you believed them.

As for gay priests, I know more about them than I want to. They practically bankrupted the archdiocese of Los Angeles.

I don't need an excuse, as you say, "to rip on" the Puritan mentality. It has been a disaster for this country from day one. I rip on it ever chance I get.

Oh look, a squirrel.

I like squirrels. They don't breathe through their mouths.