6 September 2023

Motorem Bum

 I don't know whether you agree that one of the purposes of a blog is to recycle old jokes.

But whether you do or not, here is the opening stanza of a macaronic poem by A D Godley, 1856-1925, sometime Public Orator of this University. The full text takes one through the complete "Latin" grammatical declension of Motor Bus; beginning with the nominative and accusative singulars.

What is it that roareth thus?

Can it be a Motor Bus?

Yes, the smell and hideous hum

Indicat Motorem Bum. 

(Is it true that, in American English, Bum can function as a verb?)

Wikipaedia gives you the complete poem; tap in Motorem Bum.



Moritz Gruber said...

Reminds me a lot, for those who know German, of the Poem "Der Werwolf" by Christian Morgenstern. Which would be The Werewolf in English obviously, but for the fact that the whole point of the poem is that the phrase also means "The Who-Wolf", and is declined accordingly. But the werewolf has a wife and a child and so is dismayed when the teacher (a dead teacher resurrected from his grave for the purpose no less) gives, asked for the plural, the answer: "Of wolves, indeed, a great deal there are / but 'who' has just the singular".

So, for those who know German, enjoy; I have not the time to give an apt translation now (which would be an interesting task anyway.

Zephyrinus said...

Dear Fr. Hunwicke.

Reference your most amusing “Motorem Bum” Article, and the reference to “Motor Bus”, I am minded of my Alma Mater's Motto, “In Omnibus Labora”, which we innocent chappies deciphered, with a roguish twinkle in one's immature eye, as “We Did Our Homework On The Bus”.

Happy Days.

Zephyrinus said...

Allied, of course, to the School's Fourth-Form “canard” of insisting on translating the Motto of The Order Of The Garter, “Honi Soit Qui Mal y Pense”, as “I Honestly Think I'm Going To Be Sick”.

jaykay said...

I recall that poem being in one of the textbooks we used for Latin back in the 70s, called "Latin for today". Haven't even thought about it until this post, 50 years later! Eheu, fugaces...

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Ah! for while at pre-school this was my party-piece (everyone said I could not, and should not, sing.) It has the advantage of leaving other boys' mothers looking somewhat confused.

It had never occurred to me that it was in order of declension, this makes remembering the order of the verses much easier, thank you! Apart from the misplaced plural Accusative which I am sure comes at the end, after the City of London motto.

May I take the liberty?!

What is this that roareth thus?
Can it be a motor bus?
Yes, the smell and hideous hum
IMPET in the Corn and High
Dative BE or ablative
So thou only let us live -
Whither shall thy victims flee?
Spare us, spare us, MOTOR BE!
Thus I sang: and still anigh
Came in hordes MOTORES BI,
How shall wretches live like us

Matthew F Kluk said...

Yes. In outdated American slang, to bum means to hitchhike, or to beg a free ride.

Matthew F Kluk said...

Only a groovy guy of Pope Francis' age might still use such a phrase. Mostly people might say, Would you take me? Can I get a ride? Can I get a lift?

Bernonensis said...

Yes, Father, "to bum" is to obtain something, usually something of little value, without any expectation on the part of giver or reicipient of any obligation arising therefrom.

I humbly offer for your consideration the following.

BUMO, bumavi. to request small things of others; whence:

BUMITARE (Late Fake Latin: BUMITARI) to panhandle; to cadge.

BUMANDUM (n., usu. pl. BUMANDA) thing(s) of little value such as one might willingly part with upon request.

BUMATIO -onis f. the act of requesting some trivial item, such as a pen, cigarette, or the increasingly trivial dollar.

BUMITATIO -onis f. 1. the practice or profession of panhandling. 2. the attempt to compensate for inadequate preparation solely through the goodwill of others.

Romulus said...

Why not "indicant"?

Daniel Muller said...

I didn't have any left of my own, so I bummed a cigarette off him during the break.

Arthur Gallagher said...

Yes- as in "bum a smoke". Getting a free cigarette after the manner of a vagrant, such a person being called derisively a "bum", pronounced with a short u.

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Romulus - why not indeed! Just the way we learnt it, or Godley penned it!

Jhayes said...

There is also “to bum someone out” which the Cambridge Dictionary calls a “phrasal verb”

bum someone out
phrasal verb with bum verb [ T ] slang
US /bʌm/ UK /bʌm/

US informal to make someone feel sad or disappointed:
That comment just bummed me out.

PM said...

Caesar adsum jam forti, brutus aderat ...

Josephus Muris Saliensis said...

Dear Romulus (again), having dwelt on it overnight (sic) I think Godley sees "smell and hideous hum" as one compound noun of ghastliness (with which one would agree), both emanating from the same foul internal combustion engine, and that at a poetic level it is more powerful thus singular.

Of course, modern busses make neither smell nor hideous hum, but, yet in similar copious hordes, glide around silently like thieves in the night waiting to dispatched the deaf and the elderly.

Sue Sims said...

Zephyrinus: Sellars and Yeatman (1066 and All That) got there first, translating it as 'Honey, your silk stocking's hanging down'.

Atticus said...

The usage mentioned above of "bumming a smoke" seems to be the most common. But Britons should take very great pains in this context to avoid trans-atlanticising by substituting "fag" for "smoke"...

John Patrick said...

"bum a smoke" probably a lot less common now that hardly anyone smokes, plus the cost of cigarettes being such that you need to take out a second mortgage on the house to buy a carton, people are less likely to offer one gratis.