Book 9 - Asterix and the Normans
The story - There's a new kid on patrol. The older legionaries plan to have some fun with the fresh, enthusiastic newbie.
Professor Ibrox explains:
"The third legionary says 'Send him round to the optio for a handful of half-uncia holes.' An optio is second-in-command to a centurion, so he's pretty much the boss. Uncias were Roman coins. The half-uncia is better known as a semuncia, but it didn't have a hole.
"So... I don't really get it. Unless it means uncia as in 'inch' - so he's asking for half-inch holes. Not totally sure.
"But I'm sure that sending the boy to the boss to ask for half-uncia holes is a typical snipe hunt, a mean trick. Hazing the new kid is part of life.
"The best way to explain to young people today is to compare it to the hit TV show The Inbetweeners. One kid, Will, is sent to a garage on work experience, and his smarmy condescension gets up the nose of the mechanics. They give him a list of things to go and shop for - two tins of tartan paint, spirit level bubbles, a reach-around, 'Oh, and ask for a long wait, too' - while they struggle to keep straight faces.
"All very funny, but it did bring back unpleasant memories of my service in the merchant navy when I was a lad. I was told to go to help the boson check the cuntsplices. I stood up for myself and told them I wouldn't be made a fool of, and was soundly thrashed for being impertinent and not knowing my trade."
Other bits - There's a bit more Latin in Asterix and the Normans than I caught first time around. First there's a bit where Cacofonix is driving everyone crazy by singing This Old Man.
By the second frame, he's up to 157. Maddening!
Finally, at the end of the story, young Justforkix has learned some courage. He stands up for himself and tells the bullying Norman to go home:
Sic transit gloria means 'and so the glory passes' - it's yet another amazing Latin joke. 'We're sick of you and we'd like to see you in transit.' Get it? Yes, we do!