Interesting Times

INTERESTING TIMES….Here’s a quick break from important topics such as hurricanes and Supreme Court justices. Sam Crane emails to tell me that the ancient Chinese proverb “May you live in interesting times,” which I cited earlier, has an, ahem, interesting history:

  • It’s not ancient.

  • It’s not Chinese.

  • It might be Scottish.

  • According to Stephen DeLong, its earliest known use is either in a 1950 science fiction story by Eric Frank Russell or else in a commentary on “The Secret of the Golden Flower” written by Carl Jung in 1931. The latter seems unlikely, though. The miracle of Amazon search makes this fairly easy to check, and at the very least it doesn’t appear in the English translation.

DeLong has more, but the bottom line is that it’s definitely not Chinese. Whoever made it up did a good job of fooling everyone, though.

UPDATE: This post obviously suffers from a lack of Bush bashing, so let’s add some! Geoff Waters emails to tell me that there is a genuine Chinese poem by the famous 11th century poet and government official Su Shi (a/k/a Su Dongpo) that could have been written by George H.W. Bush:

Wishes For My Son

Everyone hopes their children will be brilliant;
But I am too smart and my whole career has suffered.
So I hope you, my son, grow up dumb and simple,
And avoiding all my problems, become the Prime Minister.

That does, indeed, seem appropriate to our age.