Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

Brigid Daull Brockway is technically a writer

A blog about words, wordplay, and etymology, with slightly more than occasional political rants.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Well huh.

Can you guess the speaker of the Sociology professor's favorite quotation? "The children now love luxury. They have bad manners, contempt for authority, they show disrespect to their elders... they contradict their parents, chatter before company... and are tyrants over their teachers."
Sociology professors love this quotation because it demonstrates something weird we humans tend to do - to forever see the younger generations as horrible and getting worse, and certain to bring about the downfall of society. See, this quotation, which easily have come from pretty much any pundit on Fox News this morning comes from none other than Plato.
At least that's what I thought when I looked it up online just now. Turns out, it's not from Plato at all. And it's all Stephen Fry's fault.
He kind of dresses like a sociology professor

You see, Stephen Fry hosts the most British show on television, a celebrity quiz show called QI. On QI, Fry asks his panel of hilariously British cohorts questions that everyone on earth knows the answer to...

...and then informs the entire world that they're wrong, while smugly grinning like the cat who ate the canary.
Seen here wearing the canary
If you ever want to spend an hour being confused and wrong, you can catch the latest few seasons on Hulu.
Back to the quotation I bet you thought I'd forgotten about: even though it's been attributed to Plato by news publications all over the planet, including the New York Times and The Chicago Herald, it wasn't written by Plato, or Socrates, or Sam the Eagle, or a Fox News Host.

The research team at QI that the quotation came from the dissertation of Kenneth John Freeman, an Oxford student who, in 1907, used those words to summarize what folks were saying of the youth during Plato's time. On the one hand, this Freeman guy kinda got screwed. On the other hand, Plato's one of the most revered intellects of all time, so having people mistake your writing for his has to be a bit of an ego boost.
A few other facts that might make you feel like Stephen Fry is somewhere in England, wearing a bad tie and mocking you:

  • The city with the highest crime rate in the world is Vatican City. 
  • The driest place on earth is Antarctica, parts of which haven't seen rain in millions of years.
  • Two thirds of the world's population has never seen snow. Lucky bastards.
  • The largest thing a blue whale can swallow is a grapefruit.
  • Nero did not fiddle while Rome burned. Actually, he handled the containment effort quite capably. 
  • The Inca measured time based on how long it took to cook a potato.

Sources for most of the facts above can be found in The Book of General Ignorance by John Lloyd (one of the show's creators) and John Hitchinson. Or by watching QI.

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