Asterix and Son: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 27 - Asterix and Son


The story. A baby has been dumped outside Asterix's house. Some Romans are trying to find said baby, and bump into Asterix and Obelix. The prefect Crismus Cactus doesn't realise what he's in for, and gives his usual commands.

Professor Ibrox explains:

"Signa inferre! Praege! Concursu! Ad gladios! Infestis pilis! The translations are there in the panel itself. It's very funny - he thinks he's taking charge of the battle but even before he's finished giving orders the battle is lost. There's a pleasing contrast between his perception of reality and the way events are actually unfolding. Great panel!

"The Roman army was tremendously disciplined and organised. They had battle standards (Aquilae) that were used to relay orders (signa inferre, e.g.), but were also powerful totems of honour and courage. There's a list on Wikipedia of all the times the main battle standard was lost - it was that important. My favourite is the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest. The Germanics won huge victories and captured three standards, and the Romans spent decade after decade trying to get them back.

"It's like the time I lost my first cameraphone. The police told me to just go buy a new one. I couldn't tell them about the photos I had on it. I moved heaven and earth to find that phone. It's probably in a landfill by now. God, I hope it's in a landfill now."



The story. Asterix and Obelix are about to re-encounter the Romans they had beaten up. The Romans were unaware of their true mission, believing themselves to be taking a census.

Professor Ibrox explains:

"Quod erat demonstrandum was used (in a better way) in Asterix and the Big Fight. Having said that, it does fit here and the panel as a whole is funny. When the third legionary says 'The prefect can't count on me any more!' what he means is, he will no longer support the prefect. But what the 4th legionary means by saying QED is, 'that's right! The prefect can't count on you, since you lost the fight.'

"Not bad, but it's a few scenes later where it really pays off. The baby has gulped down a bunch of magic potion and while it beats up their colleague, these scamps leg it."

"As you can see, it's a repetition of the panel above, but the Romans are even more urgent in their retreat. They are referencing Jonathan Swift, but you might know it from a nursery rhyme called The Siphonaptera:

Big fleas have little fleas,
Upon their backs to bite ‘em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas,
and so, ad infinitum.

"The little flea that bites is, of course, the baby. (Not to be confused with the little pea that scores, Javier Hernandez.)"



The story. The Romans have burned down Asterix's entire village simply to create a distraction. Amidst the chaos, they kidnap the baby and meet up with the pirates. The captain gets in a quick gag.

Professor Ibrox explains:

"A wife in every portus (=port). Huh! Those sailors love saying how they've got a wife in every port. I was in the merchant navy for a spell and a sorrier lot of gameless geeks you'll never find. They wash up onto shore like so many crabs - and walk like them too. They run up to the nearest woman, realise they have nothing to say, and near swallow their own tongues in foolish desperation. A USB stick in every port - yeah, maybe. Full of despicable photos. But not quite so despicable as... Um...

"The pun on Brivates Portus (Brivate life/private life) is a bit of a stretch, but probably the best one available. What I like about the picture is his facial expression - hilariously self-satisfied. It's brilliantly done given that his face is basically a beard and an eyepatch. And I only recently noticed the skull on his sword. Nice touch!"

The pirate captain soon gags on his words and reflexively jumps into the water to avoid being beaten up by the Gauls. The old pirate, as ever, is gagging to show off his Latin.

"Ad nauseam means 'and on to the point of nausea.' And what's this sic thing? It's short for sic erat scriptum,  which means 'thus was it written'. It's normally used when quoting someone when the quote contains a mistake. 

"The old pirate is using 'sic' here the way teens write 'this' on Twitter. You know the sort of thing. Someone writes 'Pineapple on pizza is a crime.' Then the next person just writes 'this' to show they agree.

"So put it all together - the captain says the Gauls are sickening. The old pirate says 'this times infinity.' The black pirate says he's feeling seasic, but knows he's made a spelling mistake so he writes (sic).

"By the way, the mysterious musical symbols that appear in the black guy's speech bubble - I think it's supposed to be a reference to Procul Harum's Whiter Shade of Pale, but the lyric should be 'I was feeling kinda seasic (sic)'.

"Play it, Sam!"



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