Wednesday, May 04, 2011

Pithy thoughts on what Ovid called "that rumpy-pumpy stuff."

Alain de Botton came up with a nicely phrased thought this week in his Twitter feed:
So many affairs would be prevented if people could more easily reveal that they would ideally like to sleep with one another--but won't.
In its pithy incisiveness, it sounds like something that ought to have been said by an Anthony Powell character, perhaps Moreland (whose affair with Priscilla Tolland might have been headed off by such a conversation).

That thought sent me back to Powell's Writer's Notebook, a volume whose only flaw is its slimness. I sought out this old favorite:
All love affairs are special cases, and yet at the same time each is the same case.
And this:
It is always a mistake to assume that other people have lower standards than oneself.
Then I encountered this gruesome idea of service:
A is having an affair with B's wife, and tries to teach her habits of punctuality, so that B too shall profit in some way from the situation.
And finally, we get to just one of the many bad outcomes that could result from all this sneaking around and double-dealing, presented here with the sort of admirable matter-of-factness that would, one assumes, go over well at the sort of parties to which one, being dull, is not generally invited:
I must go off now and see a man who is blackmailing me.


  1. andrea3:44 PM

    How did Ovid say "rumpy-pumpy" in Latin? Rumpus pumpus?

  2. I wondered that myself, but I only have one translation on hand of the Remedies, the poem where I found that line, the new one by David Slavitt from Harvard. The next time I'm in the library, I'm planning to at least go see what other translators have made of the line, and hopefully find it in Latin. Rumpus-Pumpus does sound nicely silly.