Asterix and the Magic Carpet: Latin Jokes Explained

Book 28 - Asterix and the Magic Carpet


The story. Asterix, Obelix, and Cacofonix are flying on a magic carpet towards India, where the bard will make it rain with his awful voice. Along the way they come across the pirates. For once, the captain is able to negotiate a settlement that avoids his ship being sunk, but little does he know that one of his crew has taken matters into his own hands.

Professor Ibrox explains:

"The joke looks simple enough - the captain uses the word 'sick' and Pegleg's next word is 'sic'. But there's much more to it, aha, beneath the surface.

"Not so long before, the pirates had been celebrating a great season of pirating. Then Asterix and friends had reduced their worldly possessions to one sestertius. Quickly followed by them scuttling themselves. Now that we know that, let's get into the Latin.

"As we learned in Asterix and Son, sic means thus. The whole phrase, Sic transit gloria mundi means 'Thus passes the glory of the world.' It might have been said during some Roman triumphs (you know, where a slave whispers into the ear of the conquering hero that he's mortal), but it's most famous for being part of the coronations of popes and heads of FIFA.

"The point of yelling the phrase at the new pope is to let him know that while he's on top now, it won't last. Pegleg is saying, 'we were on top 10 panels ago and it didn't last.' And let that be a lesson to Glasgow Celtic! The Rangers will return! Sic transit gloria mundi, bitches!"



The story. Just as his big moment arrives and Cacofonix is about to drench the parched land, his voice dries up. The Rajah sends his best doctors to spitball a solution.

Professor Ibrox explains:

"The ducktors quack out some diagnoses. See what I did there? The first one suggests Cacofonix is suffering from Paranoia Vulgaris - vulgaris means common. I don't have enough medical training to know if there's such a thing as 'common paranoia'. He says he'll demonstrate it ad nauseum, meaning until Cacofonix is sick. In short, if he doesn't have paranoia now, he will soon.

"The next dude says Contraria contrariis curantur, which as you know means 'the opposites are cured by their opposites'. That's a relevant quote, since it was written by the father of medicine, Hippocrates. The opposite of 'opposites treating opposites' is 'like cures like', which is part of the batshit crazy lunacy we are required to name as 'homeopathy'. 'Opposite cures opposite,' while sounding negative, is actually the basis of modern medicine. Thanks, Hippocrates!

"Next up is a guy saying, Quot capita, tot sensus.  I have chosen the following words as my translation: 'There are as many opinions as there are heads'. I've heard many, many variations on that phrase. A teacher at school told me 'if you ask 8 economists a question you'll get 9 answers.' A Polish guy once proudly told me, 'If you ask 5 Polish people a question you'll get 6 opinions.' And a neuroscientist once grinned that if you asked one person a question you'd get two answers - the brain's answer and the answer the brain thought it thought. I think he said that, I was somewhat tipsy.

"That quot capita phrase was in a play from an ancient Roman playwright called Terence, whose name always struck me as anachronistic. He was a freed slave and he wrote so beautifully that even though a lot of his stuff was flat out heretical, the Catholic church encouraged monks to make copies of his work since they enjoyed it so much - it helped them learn Latin faster and better.

"When the one doctor is telling the Rajah Cacofonix's prescription, he ends by saying Ita est. Translation: So it is/it is so/it so is. How would I use that in a sentence? Let me think... Ah!

"Is this the end of the article? Ita est!"