Tag Archives: humorous

Nicolas Slonimsky

The criterion of selection here is the exact opposite to that of a press agent. Instead of picking a quotably flattering phrase out of context from an otherwise tepid review, the Lexicon of Musical Invective cites biased, unfair, ill- tempered, and singularly unprophetic judgments.

Nicolas Slonimsky, Lexicon of Musical Invective: Critical Assaults on Composers since Beethoven’s Time, New York, 1953, p. 3

C. D. Broad

I will now say something of what happened to me from and including my 80th birthday up to the end of 1968. I will begin with my 80th birthday.

December 30th., 1967 naturally began with showers of congratulatory letters and telegrams, and with some gifts. Among these, I will single out for mention a telegram from Bertrand Russell, a card of good wishes from the Kitchen Staff, and the gift of a beautiful silver penknife from Dr Husband.

At 4.20 pm, Bradfield fetched me in his car to his home, where I had tea with him and his wife and his son (“The Nord’). There was a superb cake with 80 candles, all of which I managed to blow out with one breath. (The practice of emitting hot air, of which philosophy so largely consists, had no doubt been a good training for me.)

C. D. Broad, ‘Autobiographical Notes’, in Joel Walmsley (ed.) Broad’s Unpublished Writings, London, 2022, pp. 82–83

C. D. Broad

[D]id Bacon provide any logical justification for the principles and methods which he elicited and which scientists assume and use? He did not, and he never saw that it was necessary to do so. There is a skeleton in the cupboard of Inductive Logic, which Bacon never suspected and Hume first exposed to view. Kant conducted the most elaborate funeral in history, and called Heaven and Earth and the Noumena under the Earth to witness that the skeleton was finally disposed of. But, when the dust of the funeral procession had subsided and the last strains of the Transcendental Organ had died away, the coffin was found to be empty and the skeleton in its old place. Mill discretely closed the door of the cupboard, and with infinite tact turned the conversation into mote cheerful channels. Mr Johnson and Mr Keynes may fairly be said to have reduced the skeleton to the dimensions of a mere skull. But that obstinate caput mortuum still awaits the undertaker who will give it Christian burial. May we venture to hope that when Bacon’s next centenary is celebrated the great work which he set going will be completed; and that Inductive Reasoning, which has long been the glory of Science, will have ceased to be the scandal of Philosophy?

C. D. Broad, The Philosophy of Francis Bacon, an address delivered at Cambridge on the occasion of the Bacon Tercentenary, 5 October 1926, Cambridge, 1926, pp. 66–67

David Leonhardt

[Amos Tversky’s] confidence and brilliance combined to make for a cutting sense of humor. After he had given a talk, an English statistician approached him and said, “I don’t usually like Jews, but I like you.” Tversky responded, “I usually like Englishmen, but I don’t like you.”

David Leonhardt, ‘From Michael Lewis, the story of two friends who changed how we think about the way we think’, The New York Times, December 6, 2016

Steven Pinker

According to a story, the logician Sidney Morgenbesser and his girlfriend underwent couples counseling during which the bickering pair endlessly aired their grievances about each other. The exasperated counselor finally said to them, “Look, someone’s got to change.” Morgenbesser replied, “Well, I’m not going to change. And she’s not going to change. So you’re going to change.”

Steven Pinker, Rationality: What It Is, Why It Seems Scarce, Why It Matters, New York, 2021, p. 81

Francis Galton

It often occurs to persons familiar with some scientific subject to hear men and women of mediocre gifts relate to one another what they have picked up about it from some lecture—say at the Royal Institution, where they have sat for an hour listening with delighted attention to an admirably lucid account, illustrated by experiments of the most perfect and beautiful character, in all of which they expressed themselves intensely gratified and highly instructed. It is positively painful to hear what they say. Their recollections seem to be a mere chaos of mist and misapprehension, to which some sort of shape and organization has been given by the action of their own pure fancy, altogether alien to what the lecturer intended to convey.

Francis Galton, Hereditary Genius: An Inquiry into Its Laws and Consequences, London, 1869, p. 18

Amartya Sen

I taught a class with Ken Arrow and John Rawls in ’68-’69. I was visiting here at Harvard. Arrow was then on the faculty of Harvard for some years, and Rawls was very established at Harvard. So the three of us together, we did a class on justice and social choice, which was quite fun. I remember, while flying to a meeting in Washington, my neighbor on the plane asked me what did I do? I said, “I teach in Delhi, but at the moment I’m visiting Harvard.” I told him that I’m concerned with justice and social choice involving aggregation of individuals’ disparate views. And he said, “Oh, let me tell you: There is a very interesting class taught by Kenneth Arrow, John Rawls, and some unknown guy on this very subject. You should check it out!”

Amartya Sen, ‘I’ve never done work that I was not interested in. That is a very good reason to go on’, The Harvard Gazette, June 3, 2021

Al Sweigart

Note that the convention for importing pathlib is to run from pathlib import Path, since otherwise we’d have to enter pathlib.Path everywhere Path shows up in our code. Not only is this extra typing redundant, but it’s also redundant.

Al Sweigart, Automate the Boring Stuff with Python: Practical Programming for Total Beginners, 2nd ed., San Francisco, 2020, p. 203

David Bjorklund & Carlos Hernández Blasi

On a tour of the Galápagos Islands, we had the opportunity to visit a field of Galápagos giant turtles, some who may have been the grandchildren or great-grandchildren of the same turtles Charles Darwin saw when he visited the islands in the 1820s (they can live to be more than 100 years old). Our guide told the group that, unlike humans and other mammals, male and female Galápagos turtles are not genetically different. For these turtles, as well as for other reptiles including alligators and crocodiles, sex is not determined by differences in genes, but by differences in the temperature at which the eggs are incubated. We could, theoretically, have genetically identical twin turtles, one a male and one a female. The guide told us the mnemonic he uses to remember the relationship between incubation temperature and sex for Galápagos giant turtles: “Hot chicks and cool dudes.”

Peter Gray & David Bjorklund, Child and Adolescent Development: An Integrated Approach, Belmont, California, 2011, p. 85

Jorge Luis Borges

[M]e acaba de llamar un señor que quiere hacerme una entrevista. Un tal «Cacho» Fontana. Yo le dije que no. ¡Cómo voy a aceptar que me entreviste alguien que usa ese apodo! Es más o menos como si yo me hiciera llamar «Pepe» Borges.

Jorge Luis Borges, quoted in Roberto Alifano, El humor de Borges, Sevilla, 2016

C. D. Broad

This gigantic tome (it is of about the same size as a volume of the Encyclopædia Britannica in the ordinary edition) contains Boseovich’s chief work in Latin with an English translation on the opposite pages. The text is that of the Venetian edition of 1703, the translation has been made by Mr. J. M. Child. Dr. Branislav Petronievie of the University of Belgrade provides a short life of Boscovich and Mr. Child writes an introduction in which he states and explains the main outlines of Boscovich’s theory of nature.

The expenses of publication have been partly met by the government of the new kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. So far as I am aware, this is the only instance on record in which one of the succession states of the late Austrian empire has done anything which can be counted to its credit. It is a little pathetic that patriotic Jugo-Slavs should have had to take Boscovich as their leading representative in Science, for it is admitted that he left his native land as a boy and only returned to it once for a few months. He is said to have been acquainted with the Serbo-Croatian tongue, but he had the good sense to write nothing whatever in it. M. Petronievie makes the best of a bad job by saying that, ‘although Boscovich had studied in Italy and passed the greater part of his life there, he had never penetrated to the spirit of the language’. We may, perhaps, conclude that the Serbo-Croatian genius has not blossomed very freely in science when such a very indirect representative has had to be chosen for the purpose of patriotic ‘boosting’.

Setting these nationalist absurdities aside, we may say that Boscovich was undoubtedly a great man, and that it was well worth while to produce an edition of his works for the use of English readers. It seems a pity that the volume should be so extremely unhandy; it is better adapted to form part of a bomb-proof shelter than of a library. But the binding and printing are excellent. So far as I (who can make no claim to be an accurate Latin scholar) can judge, the translation is quite satisfactory. Mr. Child’s introduction is both interesting and helpful; and I am afraid that many readers will be tempted to read it and leave Boscovich’s own exposition to take care of itself.

C. D. Broad, Review of R. J. Boscovich, Theoria philosophiae naturalis, Mind, vol. 32, no. 127 (July, 1923), p. 374

Alan Walker

Hans von Bülow once arrived in a small German town to give a piano recital. He was informed by the somewhat nervous organizers that the local music critic could usually be counted on to give a good review, pro- vided that the artist first agreed to take a modestly priced lesson from him. Bülow pondered this unusual situation for a moment, and then replied, ‘He charges such low fees he could almost be described as incor- ruptible’. On another occasion Bülow got back to his London hotel after dark. As he was climbing the dimly lit staircase, he collided with a stranger hurrying in the opposite direction. ‘Donkey!’ exclaimed the man angrily. Bülow raised his hat politely, and replied, ‘Hans von Bülow’!

Volumes could be filled with the wit and wisdom of Hans von Bülow, and the biography that follows teems with examples. His banter was woven into the very weft and weave of his complex personality. He had, moreover, the enviable gift of instant retort. A gentleman eager to be seen in his company once observed Bülow taking a morning stroll. He overtook the great musician, but was unsure of how to introduce himself. Finally he thought of something to say. ‘I’ll bet you don’t remember who I am.’ ‘You just won your bet’, replied Bülow, and walked on. Equally withering were Bülow’s observations on the follies of everyday life. Having heard that an eligible young bachelor wanted to improve his social station through marriage, he observed, ‘It will never work. The young lady wants to do the same thing’.

On orchestral players Bülow could be particularly hard, especially if he felt that they were incompetent. He once berated a trombone player who was failing to deliver the right kind of sound, and told him that his tone resembled roast beef gravy running through a sewer. In Italy, during a rehearsal of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Bülow found himself confronted by a timpanist who simply could not master the intricate rhythms of the Scherzo. There comes a moment in this dynamic movement when the timpanist must break through with force, hammering out the basic rhythm of the main theme. Bülow strove with might and main to pound the pattern into the poor man’s head, but to no avail. Suddenly the solution occurred to him. Timp-a-ni! Timp-a-ni! Timp-a-ni! he kept yelling. A smile of comprehension slowly dawned on the player’s face, as he caught the rhythm of the one word with which he was familiar, and in no time at all he was playing the passage in the correct manner.

Bülow could also be severe on fledgling composers, particularly if he suspected that they wanted him to endorse their music. During a visit to Boston, in the spring of 1889, a local composer of modest talent sent Bülow one of his compositions and was bold enough to request an opinion. The piece was titled ‘O Lord, hear my prayer!’ Bülow glanced briefly at the manuscript and wrote beneath the title, ‘He may, if you stop sinning like this!’

A more famous case was that of Friedrich Nietzsche who, in the summer of 1872, was indiscreet enough to send Bülow an ambitious orchestral composition of his own—a ‘Manfred Meditation’—for the conductor’s critical appraisal. It was one of the philosopher’s major blunders. He had witnessed Bülow conduct Tristan at the Munich Royal Opera House a few weeks earlier, and by way of thanking him for ‘the loftiest artistic experience of my life’ he had sent Bülow a copy of his newly published ‘The Birth of Tragedy’. When he heard that Bülow was sufficiently impressed with the book to carry it with him everywhere, he was emboldened to send him his ‘Manfred Meditation’, doubtless hoping that the famous conductor would favour him with the usual assortment of platitudes that professionals are sometimes apt to offer distinguished amateurs. If Nietzsche thought to secure some fine phrases from Bülow, proffered by virtue of who he was, rather than by virtue of what the music itself was worth, he was sadly mistaken. Bülow looked at the ‘Manfred Meditation’ and knew that he must do his duty. He told Nietzsche that his score was ‘the most unedifying, the most anti-musical thing that I have come across for a long time in the way of notes put on paper.’ Several times, Bülow went on, he had to ask himself if it were not some awful joke. Having inserted the blade, Bülow now twisted the hilt and used Nietzsche’s own philosophical precepts against him. ‘Of the Apollonian element I have not been able to discover the smallest trace; and as for the Dionysian, I must say frankly that I have been reminded less of this than of the “day after” a bacchanal.’ In brief, Nietzsche’s score had produced in Bülow a hangover.

Schadenfreude, too, was never far from the surface, for like most of us Bülow found occasional joy in the misfortune of others. Two of his orchestral players, named Schulz and Schmidt, were slowly driving him to distraction because of their evident inability to understand what he required of them. One morning he got to the rehearsal only to be met with the sad news that Schmidt had died during the night. ‘And Schulz?’ he inquired.

Alan Walker, Hans von Bülow: A Life and Times, Oxford, 2010, pp. 3-5

Daniel Kevles

In 1905. Governor Samuel W. Pennypacker rejected the sterilization act of the Pennsylvania legislature with the ringing broadside: “It is plain that the safest and most effective method of preventing procreation would be to cut the heads off of the inmates.” (Not long afterward, Pennypacker wise­ cracked down a raucous political audience: “Gentlemen, gentlemen! You forget you owe me a vote of thanks. Didn’t I veto the bill for the castration of idiots?”)

Daniel Kevles, In the Name of Eugenics: Genetics and the Uses of Human Heredity, Berkeley, 1985, p. 109

Steve Andreas

A young soldier wakes up in his army barracks one morning and begins acting very strangely. He spends all his time searching, looking under, in, behind—everywhere—in an obsessive search for something. When his commanding officer asks what is going on, the soldier says, “Sir, I’m looking for a piece of paper.” “Did you lose it?” “No, sir.” “What is it?” “I don’t know, sir.” “Well, what does it look like?” “I don’t know, sir.” After a lot of fruitless questioning like this, the officer gives up. Meanwhile the soldier keeps searching everywhere.

Finally, after a few days of this incessant searching, the officer sends the soldier over to the psychiatrist who asks, “Well, what seems to be the problem?” Again the soldier says “Well, I’m trying to find a piece of paper.” As the psychiatrist asks him questions, the soldier goes through all the papers on the psychiatrist’s desk, looks in the waste basket, on the shelves, under the rug, and so on. He continues to search everywhere for the paper, incessantly. Finally after several days of this, the psychiatrist gives up and says, “Well, son, I think the Army’s been a little too rough on you. I think we had better give you a psychiatric discharge.” He fills out the discharge form, and as the hands it over, the soldier says excitedly, “There it is!

Steve Andreas, Transforming Your Self: Becoming Who You Want to Be, Moab, Utah, 2002, p. 26

Brian Tracy

It’s been said that you should never share your problems with others because 80% of people don’t care about your problems anyway, and the other 20% are kind of glad that you’ve got them in the first place.

Brian Tracy, Eat That Frog!: 21 Great Ways to Stop Procrastinating and Get More Done in Less Time, 3rd ed., Oakland, 2017, p. 73

Kenneth Williams

Friday, 29 January [1954].Man went to see a psychiatrist — Man: O! I’m in a frightful state doctor! I feel that I am suffering from an inferiority complex. Dr: Perhaps you’re inferior. Peter Nichols told me this story—it’s the perfect answer to all the psychological bunkum that goes on.

Kenneth Williams, The Kenneth Williams Diaries, London, 1993, p. 97

István Hargittai

Because of his many different engagements, von Neumann had to be especially concerned with secrecy, but he took this with good humor. As he was traveling a lot, he was accompanied by two “gorillas.” He met with Stanislaw Ulam on the Chicago railway station and recruited him for the work at Los Alamos. However, von Neumann could not reveal the exact nature of work, nor the location. He could only tell Ulam that it was in the southwest. Ulam told him: “I know you can’t tell me, but you say you are going southwest in order that I should think that you are going northeast. But I know you are going southwest, so why do you lie?”

István Hargittai, The Martians of Science: Five Physicists Who Changed the Twentieth Century, Oxford, 2006, p. 123

Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson

The line between cynicism and misanthropy—between thinking ill of human motives and thinking ill of humans—is often blurry. So we want readers to understand that although we may often be skeptical of human motives, we love human beings. (indeed, many of our best friends are human!)

Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson, The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, Oxford, 2018, p. 13

Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson

Shortly after his 23rd birthday, Kevin was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease. For a while he was extremely reluctant to talk about it (except among family and close friends), a reluctance he rationalized by telling himself that he’s simply a “private person” who doesn’t like sharing private medical details with the world. Later he started following a very strict diet to treat his disease—a diet that eliminated processed foods and refined carbohydrates. Eating so healthy quickly became a point of pride, and suddenly Kevin found himself perfectly happy to share his diagnosis, since it also gave him an opportunity to brag about his diet. Being a “private person” about medical details went right out of the window—and now, look, here he is sharing his diagnosis (and diet!) with perfect strangers in this book.

Kevin Simler & Robin Hanson, The Elephant in the Brain: Hidden Motives in Everyday Life, Oxford, 2018, p. 104

William Lane Craig

Finally, as always, I am grateful to my wife Jan, not only for her help with early portions of the typescript, but even more for the encouragement and interaction (‘Honey, what do you think? Does the number 2 exist?’).

William Lane Craig, God Over All: Divine Aseity and the Challenge of Platonism, Oxford, 2016, p. viii

James Boswell

Dr. Adams found him one day busy at his Dictionary, when the following dialogue ensued. “ADAMS. This is a great work, Sir. How are you to get all the etymologies? JOHNSON. Why, Sir, here is a shelf with Junius, and Skinner, and others; and there is a Welch gentleman who has published collection of Welch proverbs, who will help me with the Welch. ADAMS. But, Sir, how can you do this in three years? JOHNSON. Sir, I have no doubt that I can do it in three years. ADAMS. But the French Academy, which consists of forty members, took forty years to compile their Dictionary. JOHNSON. Sir, thus it is. This is the proportion. Let me see; forty times forty is sixteen hundred. As three to sixteen hundred, so is the proportion of an Englishman to a Frenchman.”

James Boswell, The Life of Samuel Johnson, London, 1791, vol. 1, p. 101

Scott Alexander

A boot, stamping on a human face – forever!

No! Wait! Sorry! Wrong future for socialism! This is John Roemer’s A Future for Socialism, a book on how to build a kinder, gentler socialist economy. It argues for – and I believe proves – a bold thesis: a socialist economy is entirely compatible with prosperity, innovation, and consumer satisfaction – just as long as by “socialism”, you mean “capitalism”.

Scott Alexander, ‘Book Review: A Future For Socialism’, Slate Star Codex, October 24, 2014

Scott Aaronson

Quantum Computing since Democritus is a candidate for the weirdest book ever to be published by Cambridge University Press. The strangeness starts with the title, which conspicuously fails to explain what this book is about. Is this another textbook on quantum computing—the fashionable field at the intersection of physics, math, and computer science that’s been promising the world a new kind of computer for two decades, but has yet to build an actual device that can do anything more impressive than factor 21 into 3 × 7 (with high probability)? If so, then what does this book add to the dozens of others that have already mapped out the fundamentals of quantum computing theory? Is the book, instead, a quixotic attempt to connect quantum computing to ancient history? But what does Democritus, the Greek atomist philosopher, really have to do with the book’s content, at least half of which would have been new to scientists of the 1970s, let alone of 300 BC?

Having now read the book, I confess that I’ve had my mind blown, my worldview reshaped, by the author’s truly brilliant, original perspectives on everything from quantum computing (as promised in the title) to Gödel’s and Turing’s theorems to the P versus NP question to the interpretation of quantum mechanics to artificial intelligence to Newcomb’s Paradox to the black hole information loss problem. So, if anyone were perusing this book at a bookstore, or with Amazon’s “Look Inside” feature, I would certainly tell that person to buy a copy immediately. I’d also add that the author is extremely handsome.

Scott Aaronson, Quantum Computing since Democritus, Cambridge, 2013, p. ix

Ben Garfinkel

Another simple search cost, which we might regard as something of a fixed cost, is the cost of learning about smart contracts and how to use them. As the length of this report may help to demonstrate, this cost should be regarded as non-trivial.

Ben Garfinkel, ‘Recent Developments in Cryptography and Potential Long-Term Consequences’, sect. 4.5

Quentin Smith

I was planning to move to Florida, write philosophy in a library, while it was open, sleep outside in the warm weather at night, and hopefully find some soup kitchen or something. […] Living in the city slums wasn’t that enjoyable a feeling, especially since being robbed and shot at tended to disrupt my concentration on the theory I was working on.

Quentin Smith, ‘An interview with Quentin Smith’

Antoinette Baujard & Herrade Igersheim

[A] small number of people expressed strong disagreement with the voting methods tested, while also saying or otherwise indicating that they did not understand them.

Antoinette Baujard & Herrade Igersheim, ‘Framed Field Experiments on Approval Voting: Lessons from the 2002 and 2007 French Presidential Elections’, in Jean-François Laslier & Remzi Sanver (eds.), Handbook on Approval Voting, Heidelberg, 2010, p. 365

Thomas De Quincey

[G]entlemen, it is a fact, that every philosopher of eminence for the two last centuries has either been murdered, or, at the least, been very near it; insomuch, that if a man calls himself a philosopher, and never had his life attempted, rest assured there is nothing in him[.]

Thomas De Quincey, ‘On Murder, Considered as One of the Fine Arts’, Blackwood’s Magazine, vol. 21, no. 122 (February, 1827), p. 203

David Chalmers

Not every method of creating human-level intelligence is an extendible method. For example, the currently standard method of creating human-level intelligence is biological reproduction. But biological reproduction is not obviously extendible. If we have better sex, for example, it does not follow that our babies will be geniuses.

David Chalmers, ‘The Singularity: A Philosophical Analaysis’, Journal of Consciousness Studies, vol. 17, nos. 9-10 (2010), p. 18

Adolfo Bioy Casares

Borges me llama desde su casa y me refiere: «Madre y yo nos volvimos en taxi. Apenas subimos al automóvil, fue como andar en una montaña rusa. El hombre estaba borracho. La última vez que estuvo a punto de chocar fue en la puerta de casa, donde felizmente quedó en llanta. Madre y yo estábamos jadeantes. Entonces el destino nos deparó uno de los momentos más felices de la Historia argentina. Protestando contra todos los que pudo atropellar, el chofer, con voz aguardentera, crapulosa, recitó: “Hijos de Espejo, de Astorgano, de Perón, de Eva Perón, de Alsogaray y de todos los ladrones hijos de una tal por cual”. ¿Te das cuenta? ¡Si un hombre así está con nosotros hay esperanzas para la Patria!»

Adolfo Bioy Casares, Borges, Barcelona, 2006, p. 868

Theo Redpath

There was a charming scene on Broad’s eightieth birthday, when he had tea with the Senior Bursar of Trinity, Dr Bradfield, Mrs Bradfield, and their son. There was a superb birthday cake, with eighty lighted candles. Broad was proud of his feat in blowing them all out with a single breath. Commenting on his exploit, Broad writes: ‘The practice of emitting hot air, of which philosophy so largely consists, had no doubt been a good training for me.’

Theo Redpath, ‘C. D. Broad’, Philosophy, vol. 7, no. 282 (October, 1999), p. 594

Geoffrey Lean

A one-legged man, seeking a State mobility allowance, had to struggle up four flights of stairs to the room where a tribunal was to decide his claim.

When he got there the tribunal ruled that he could not have the allowance because he had managed to make it up the stairs.

Geoffrey Lean, ‘Catch 22 for a Man with One Leg’, The Observer, February 17, 1980, p. 5

William Easterly

MIT Press encouraged me to mention a couple of important updates in this preface for the paperback edition. First, my mother now has email.

William Easterly, The Elusive Quest for Growth: Economists’ Adventures and Misadventures in the Tropics, Cambridge, Massachusetts, 2002, p. x

Drew McDermott

In this paper I have criticized AI researchers very harshly. Let me express my faith that people in other fields would, on inspection, be found to suffer from equally bad faults. Most AI workers are responsible people who are aware of the pitfalls of a difficult field and produce good work in spite of them. However, to say anything good about anyone is beyond the scope of this paper.

Drew McDermott, ‘Artificial Intelligence Meets Natural Stupidity’, CM SIGART Bulletin, no. 57 (April, 1976), p. 9

Oliver Kamm

The title of this book encapsulates my reasoning. It’s taken from the English edition of Asterix the Gaul. The indomitable Gaul has just bashed some Roman legionaries. One of the Romans says, dazedly: ‘Vae victo, vae victis.’ Another observes: ‘We decline.’ The caption above this scene of destruction reads: ‘Accidence will happen.’

You have to believe me that this is funny. The first legionary’s Latin phrase means: ‘Woe to the one who has been vanquished, woe to those who have been vanquished.’ The scene is a riff on grammar. It was made up by Anthea Bell, the English translator of the Asterix books. She is my mother and I have stolen her joke. I’ll render it leaden by explaining why it appeals to me. Victo is the dative singular and victis is the dative plural. The legionary is literally declining, in the grammatical sense. The aspect of grammar that deals with declension and conjugation is called accidence.

Oliver Kamm, Accidence Will Happen: the Non-pedantic Guide to English Usage, London, 2015, p. x-xi

Francesco Algarotti

Io credo, disse la Marchesa, riguardando alla facilità, con cui gli uomini si scordano di quegli oggetti, que presenti anno più degli altri nella mente, che anco nell’Amore si serbi questa proporzione de’ quadrati delle distanze de’ luoghi, o piuttosto de’ tempi. Così dopo otto giorni di assenza, l’Amore è divenuto sessanta quattro volte minor di quel che fosse nel primo giorno.

Francesco Algarotti, Il newtonianismo per le dame, ovvero dialoghi sopra la luce, i colori, e l’attrazione, 9th ed., Naples, 1739, pp. 244