Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 11 - Asterix and the Chieftain's Shield


The story: After the battle of Alesia, where Julius Caesar defeated the Gauls, French loser Vercingetorix lays down his shield at Caesar's feet. Later, an opportunistic legionary nabs the shield. Then...


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"Whoo, tons of stuff here! Ruber et niger means 'red and black.' Later in the book you can see that Ruber et niger is a card game. That's annoying, since everyone knows card games were invented in the middle ages.

"The losing player declaims, 'diem perdidi!' It means 'I've lost the day'. The winner says, 'you can quote me on that too.' I think it means that although he's won the game, he's wasted another day of his life playing silly card games that haven't been invented yet. Diem perdidi is a quote from a chap called Suetonius, who made a career out of calling Caesar 'a gay'.

"Then we have a grammar bombardment, with present tense, past (disguised as 'pass'), active voice, and imperative used in a rapidfire punfest. Followed by Cicero's famous 'O tempora! O mores!' It means, 'Oh, what times! Oh, what customs!' It's like when Alan Partridge says, 'this country!' or old people say 'Kids these days!'"



The story - Asterix and Obelix bump into Roman envoy Noxius Vapus. After watching his guard get beaten up, the corpulent tribune shows surprising bravery.


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"Vade retro! Audaces fortuna juvat! Get back! Fortune favours the brave! It's funny because the guy waited in his tent while his troops were attacked."


The story - Caesar tells Noxius Vapus to go and find Vercingetorox's shield so he can go and remind the Gauls who won the war.


But Noxious Vapus can't find the shield.

Professor Ibrox explains: 

"Arms and feat/arms and feet is a nice gag. When Caesar hears the bad news, he says 'no commentary'. Not a Latin joke, exactly, but to get it you kinda need to know that Caesar wrote lots of commentaries on his various campaigns. So, now you know."


4. The story - The Romans have sent a spy to get information out of the Gauls. Wily Asterix turns the tables and gets information out of him.


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"The drunken spy says 'sol lucet omnibus' and then 'hic haec hoc'. The first means 'the sun shines on everyone' and the second is some latin grammar disguised as drunken hiccups. The translators are genius!"


5. The story - Caesar has turned up, found his army in disarray and the shield in the hands of the Gauls. Noxius Vapus tells him that the plan is to attack Gergovia - site of one of Caesar's few defeats - to get the shield back. Caesar isn't keen.


Professor Ibrox explains: 

"Placent means please. So 'bis repetita don't always placent' would be 'things twice repeated don't always please.' A bit like Professor Bhooj and his story about being stuck in the lift with the plus-size model. You never want to hear that more than once, I can tell you."