June 29, 2003
Seaweed And Venom

Venomous Kate's Electric Venom reports that three Englishmen were hunted down, arrested, handcuffed, and jailed for gathering seaweed to feed some pet tortoises. This reminded me of two things:

  1. When I was in college, a classmate and friend was arrested with two other undergraduates early one Easter morning for stealing municipal flowers. They were cutting them from city flowerbeds for a sunrise service, using knives 'borrowed' from the college dining hall. Thirty years later, they are a priest, a professor, and (perhaps not quite so surprising) a lawyer. I wonder if they have to mention their arrests on job applications.
  2. The Roman satirist Juvenal mentions imperial seaweed inspectors, dispersi . . . algae inquisitores (4.48-49). It is unlikely that such persons existed: rather they "represent hyperbolically the pervasiveness of informing under Domitian . . ., while castigating the pettiness of such informers" (quoted from the commentary of S. M. Braund). It took almost 1900 years, but English life seems to have caught up with Roman imperial satire.

By the way, Venomous Kate's slogan is 'veni, vidi, venom . . . .'. That would be even more alliterative if it were all in Latin: veni, vidi, venenavi, "I came, I saw, I infected with venom". Since all the vowels are long except the first E in venenavi, the classical pronunciation would be WAY-nee, WEE-dee, weh-nay-NAH-wee. Once of these days I'll add sound to this site so readers can click on a button and hear me pronounce the words.

Posted by Dr. Weevil at June 29, 2003 09:42 PM

Is the classical way of pronouncing Latin preferred among Latin scholars? As a singer (not specializing in a particular type or time), I was taught to Italianize Latin in some ways so that your example when sung would be VAY-nee, Vee-dee, veh-nay-NAH-vee. Do you have any thoughts or good links to resources on this matter?

Posted by: alethe on June 30, 2003 02:32 PM


It's always seemed a bit implausible to me that Caeser would have said,

WAY-nee, WEE-dee, WEE-kee,

rather than the Italianized church Latin pronunciation I learned in high school.

P.S. Those are the three parts of Gaul, right?

Posted by: steevil (Dr Weevil's bro Steve) on July 1, 2003 11:29 PM

It's easy to add sound to your blog.

If you have a PC, you probably already have a mircophone that came with it, and a little program called "Sound Recorder" (if you lack the mic, they are just a couple of dollars and plug right into the back of the PC).

Simply record your voice, upload the resulting .wav file, and link to it using an "href", the same as you'd link to any file on the web.

Posted by: Mike Spenis on July 5, 2003 01:05 PM

The original article also has Eastbourne Borough Council saying the seaweed was 'protected fauna'. In the immortal words of P. J. O'Rourke, whoever said this should be held by the heels and shaken until their brains run out of their ears and some more useful innard slides down to fill the gap.

Posted by: David Gillies on July 8, 2003 07:21 PM