Monday, 9 June 2008

"It is the mother's"

The Chinese do not call each other "bastard" as a term of abuse, it is more subtle than that. What they in fact say, literally translated, is "it is the mother's" ("ma te" are the two syllables that convey this sentiment.)


What is the mother's? Filling in the blanks and completing the sentence, the full translation is this: "The problem I am having with you originates from the morals and behaviour of your mother."


For the sake of balance, I quote Shakespeare's apparently sympathetic defence of bastards through the words of the villainous Edmund in King Lear:

EDMUND:

Thou, nature, art my goddess; to thy law
My services are bound. Wherefore should I
Stand in the plague of custom, and permit
The curiosity of nations to deprive me,
For that I am some twelve or fourteen moon-shines
Lag of a brother? Why bastard? wherefore base?
When my dimensions are as well compact,
My mind as generous, and my shape as true,
As honest madam's issue? Why brand they us
With base? with baseness? bastardy? base, base?
Who, in the lusty stealth of nature, take
More composition and fierce quality
Than doth, within a dull, stale, tired bed,
Go to the creating a whole tribe of fops,
Got 'tween asleep and wake? Well, then,
Legitimate Edgar, I must have your land:
Our father's love is to the bastard Edmund
As to the legitimate: fine word,--legitimate!
Well, my legitimate, if this letter speed,
And my invention thrive, Edmund the base
Shall top the legitimate. I grow; I prosper:
Now, gods, stand up for bastards!

No comments: