Asterix and the Missing Scroll: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 36 - Asterix and the Missing Scroll


The story. Julius Caesar has published his famous Commentaries on the War in Gaul. The newspapers are in full agreement about its quality. Beyond the headlines, all text on the page is word for word the same.

Professor Ibrox explains:

"I'm sure everyone in the world will have the same first reaction, that of trying to work out which newspapers they are supposed to be. Telegraphicus is the easiest, that's The Telegraph. Fans of Everything Asterix know what tempora means from when we did O Tempora O Mores! That's right, that one is The Times. Custos, which although it has been given a font like The Sun, is actually The Guardian.

"Most people around the world don't understand the difference between the British newspapers, and given that the body text is all the same - perhaps a commentary on me-too journalism? Also why is the headline in English and the rest in Latin? - they might be forgiven for assuming that British papers are all much of a muchness. Nothing could be further from the truth.

"In the superb BBC TV series Yes, Prime Minister, there is a wonderfully funny and accurate summary of all the major newspapers. It goes like this:

Sir Humphrey: The only way to understand the Press is to remember that they pander to their readers' prejudices.
Jim Hacker: Don't tell me about the Press. I know *exactly* who reads the papers. The Daily Mirror is read by the people who think they run the country. The Guardian is read by people who think they *ought* to run the country. The Times is read by the people who actually *do* run the country. The Daily Mail is read by the wives of the people who run the country. The Financial Times is read by people who *own* the country. The Morning Star is read by people who think the country ought to be run by *another* country. The Daily Telegraph is read by the people who think it is.
Sir Humphrey: Prime Minister, what about the people who read The Sun?
Bernard Woolley: Sun readers don't care *who* runs the country - as long as she's got big tits.

Watch the whole exchange here! Rumour is that Mrs Thatcher had it printed and framed, and kept it in her office.


2. The story. The Romans spend the whole story firing carrier pigeons off left, right, and centre. One of them strikes a pirate in the look-out nest.

Professor Ibrox explains:

"Ooh, not bad! It's been a while since we had a juicy one. 

"So, Dat veniam corvis, vexat censura columbas can be translated as 'The censor forgives the crows and harasses the doves.' You're probably thinking of a censor as someone who tells newspapers what they can and can't write. But in Roman times, a censor was more like a magistrate today.

"So a judge forgives a crow but not a dove? Let's dive deeper. Crows are notorious thieves, while doves have ever been a symbol of peace. What we're saying is that in our legal system, baddies get off scot-free, whereas innocents feel the full weight of the law. (Note that when we talk about being let off scot-free we are NOT talking about Scots. Scots are the one group guaranteed never to be let off scot-free. Remember the time I spent 2 months in Barlinnie for stealing a Twix?)

"Next time you read about a banker who brought a 200-year-old institution to its knees and nearly ruined the financial system of the whole planet and he walks out of court with nary a stain on his CV, and on the very next page there's a story of a poor struggling academic who borrows a chocolate bar and a crate of Stella Artois and HE gets locked up. Then you can spit on the page and say to yourself, Dat veniam corvis, vexat censura columbas."