A Needlessly Lengthy Explanation of the Latin Epigraph in “Ursus”


I thought the idea of a pretentious-seeming epigraph in Latin that just turns out to be a piece from Winnie the Pooh is kind of funny. So there.

In the fall after I graduated college, my summer job had ended, and I had yet to land my first “real” job, if you want to call working an entry-level TV position for not quite 16,000 dollars a year a “real job.” In the interim, I worked part-time at a book store, where I was paid under the table, in cash, at the end of each week. The store was on Main Street in a North Carolina mountain town, and had intermittent tourist traffic. It sold books of local interest, best sellers, and an odd collection of used titles. The store was able to keep the doors open, however, by specializing in home-schooling materials –textbooks and such – with the sub-specialty of Catholic home-schooling. So, there were a lot of books in Latin. I became very taken, early on, with one of them. It was A.A. Milne’s Winnie the Pooh translated into Latin, as Winnie Ille Pu. At the time, I though this was a random obscurity, but as it turns out, it was the only book in Latin to ever be on the New York Times bestseller list.

The week I left, I fed some of my final cash payment back into the store. I bought several used books and Winnie Ille Pu. I thought it would make an amusing gift for the girl I was dating at the time (which is, I’m sure, what my wife loves to be called). She had taken Latin in high school, and I thought she would enjoy reading passages from Pooh in a classical language. I came to find out that she retained absolutely nothing from high school Latin, just as I absorbed nothing from the two semesters of ancient Greek my freshman year in college, which irreparably screwed up my GPA. But, we still have the book, despite the fact that it is repeatedly put in the “to sell” pile. I always rescue it.

So, in short, what you’ve just read is the least poignant and absolutely worst re-telling of O. Henry’s “Gift of the Magi” ever.

Right. The translation. Which is, of course, the English original. I was able to find the correct passage by matching up illustrations and then sussing out Latin roots:

“I do remember, only Pooh doesn’t very well, so that’s why he likes having it told to him again. Because then it’s a real story and not just a remembering.”

See? English: marginally relevant. Latin: awesome.


One thought on “A Needlessly Lengthy Explanation of the Latin Epigraph in “Ursus”

  1. Ursus | Participant Trophy Acceptance Speech

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