Thursday, July 28, 2005

Latin for the Judgin': A critical edition

According to this tidbit from Rogue Classicism, John Roberts "has the Latin for the judgin'." As many people know, the judgin' exams are rigorous, and you need to have the Latin to pass.

Don't know what I'm talking about? I am channeling a comedy bit from the British review "Beyond the Fringe," from the 'sixties I believe, that Peter Cook (no relation) used to do. His character, a working-class man, says:

Yes, I could have been a judge but I never had the Latin, never had the Latin for the judgin', I never had it, so I'd had it, as far as bein' a judge was concerned. I just never had sufficient of it to get through the rigourous judging exams. They're noted for their rigour. People come out staggering and saying "My God, what a rigourous exam!" - and so I became a miner instead. A coal miner. I managed to get through the mining exams--they're not rigourous, they only ask one question, they say, "Who are you", and I got 75 per cent on that. I'd rather have been a judge than a miner. Being a miner, as soon as you are too old and tired and sick and stupid to do the job properly, you have to go. Well, the very opposite applies with judges.
Believe me, it's a lot funnier when Peter Cook delivers it. (Is the record still in print, or available on CD?)

However, I should point out that the excerpt I have given above was put together by me and does not occur, as far as I can tell, on the web. In short, it is a harmonizing text. Below I give a critical diplomatic text, with apparatus, based on the following five witnesses: A, B, C, D, and E. For my base text, I use B, which is closely allied to C, but C was copied by a rather careless scribe. Both A and D are defective, in that their text is incomplete. E has some affinities with A, but both represent a different tradition than BC.

B: "Yes, I could have been a judge, but I never had the Latin, never had the Latin for the judging, I just never had sufficient of it to get through the rigorous judging exams. They’re noted for their rigour. People come out staggering and saying ‘My God what a rigorous exam' – and so I became a miner instead. I’d rather have been a judge than a miner. Being a miner, as soon as you are too old and tired and sick and stupid to do the job properly, well you have to go. Well the opposite applies with judges."

Yes] ABCE; D om. || never had the Latin, never had the Latin] ABCE; D never had the Latin [one occurrence] || for the judging] ABCE; D adds. I never had it, so I'd had it, as far as being a judge was concerned || just never had sufficient of it] BCE; A didn't have sufficient || out staggering and saying] BC; E out saying || I became a miner instead] BCE; A I managed to become a miner || instead] AE add a coal miner. I managed to get through the mining exams--they're not (A adds: very) rigourous, they only ask (A adds: you) one question, they say, "Who are you", and I got 75 per cent on that || I'd rather ... with judges] BC; AE om. || well you have] B; C om. well || opposite] B; C very opposite

From the apparatus it emerges that AE and BC are mainly differentiated textually by the fact that AE has a joke about miners where BC has a joke about judges; D is quite short and has neither, but has a third joke that only amounts to a pun. An Old Testament scholar would talk about doublets, perhaps hypothesizing an Anti-Judge source (J) and an Anti-Miner source (M) and perhaps a Pun source (P), which built on a now-lost piece of folklore about failing a Latin test. (And a minimalist would deny that Peter Cook ever existed.) New Testament scholars would postulate some complicated redaction-critical business, and divide on whether the anti-judge or the anti-miner version was the most authentic, depending on which group the historical Peter Cook was believed to be in conflict with. The "Peter Cook Seminar" would assert that the "anti-judge" version was authentic, on the grounds that Peter Cook would have been in opposition to the establishment and in favor of the working man. (And a radical NT scholar would deny that Peter Cook ever existed.)

One thing no one would do is what I did at the beginning and produce a harmonized text. This is considered to be anti-historical and disrespectful of the sources, which must each be allowed to speak for themselves. However, I can assure you, based on oral memory (I listened to the record about 500 times when I was in seminary), that the pun, the anti-judge joke, and the anti-miner joke all occurred in Cook's original comedy routine. I can even tell you that none of the versions I have read have quite captured the dialect. The character tended to drop his aitches, yielding I never 'ad it, so I'd 'ad it as far as judgin' was concerned. And judging was always judgin', to form an assonance with Latin.

Therefore, after all the critical sifting work has been done, I still think that in some cases one should be allowed to hypothesize an original text or tradition that is a harmony or combination of all the witnesses, since in some cases (as illustrated here) all our witnesses are incomplete versions of a larger original.

11 comments:

slaveofOne said...

Wow...someone who loves British Comedy in the vein of Monty Python AND is a professional biblical studies person. Well, so far I've got the British Comedy part down... Time to work on the other. Thanks for that. You inspire me.

Dr. Joseph Ray Cathey said...

Ed,

This is perhaps the funniest post I have ever read on a blog! You must present this for us orally at SBL this November!

Best
Joe

Derek the ├ćnglican said...

Very nice! ...but you forgot to mention any NT scholar worth the title would look for the intermediate oral sources that lay behind the J and M souces along with speculation about the Tunnel Period...

Michael said...

Has anyone ever found an actual manuscript of the Pun Source (P)? I'd like to read it! :O)

Kevin said...

Great parody, Ed. BTW, re your pointing out to me that Aramaic "chet" is often omitted in Greek transliterations, would you say this "chet-dropping" is evidence of Aramaic Cockney? Half-Cockney? (Sorry, I pun at the drop of a chet.)

Anyway, surely you realize you are assuming a priori the existence of an underlying historical event. The substratum may be purely legendary, the sources more or less independent folk-cultural manifestations of the culturally-embedded legal maxim, "minor jurare non potest," i.e., "a miner cannot be a judge."

Anonymous said...

If you have RealPlayer installed you can hear the Judgin' bit from Beyond the Fringe here:
http://aole.org/bench.ram

My family had a bootlegged cassette with a bunch of Beyond the Fringe sketches that we'd listen to together. They became part of the cadre of inside jokes every family has so one person says, "I'm not sayin' there's a load of riff raff in the dorms..." and everyone laughs.

Funny, funny stuff. And there's more here: http://www.aole.org/R&D.htm

"The End of the World" is also worth a listen.

-Daniel Foster

EMC said...

Many thanks for all the comments, especially Kevin's Latin tag (which made me laugh coffee out of my nose) and Daniel's link to the ipsisissima verba, which I may post later on if I have time. Highly recommended.

Matthew Morgenstern said...

Well, who would believe it? There was I, looking for a Peter Cook quote, and whom do I come across but Edward Cook!
yxelt lmehwe dayyaan illa li$$ana ruma:'ta: la: hwa:t li!

By the way, I used to have a video of Peter Cook performing this sketch, but that was BA (min qidmat dena).

Curt Sampson said...

The Beyond the Fringe set of three CDs contains this sketch, as well as many other almost equally amusing ones.

bermane said...

With my compliments:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ofUZNynYXzM

strangeroneuk said...

Just in case you were wanting to watch the full Beyond the Fringe show http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KUd1OxPbKk4