Tuesday, November 15, 2016

"May you live in interesting times."

Last weekend Kate read an online news article to me that reported predictions that President Elect Trump will be impeached, or will resign, in his first year of office. My comment was that we are living in interesting times. This brought to mind the above expression but on looking into it, I found that the expression is actually not a commentary but supposedly a Chinese curse.

Some comments:
  • From Wikipedia:
“While seemingly a blessing, the expression is always used ironically, with the clear implication that 'uninteresting times', of peace and tranquillity, are more life-enhancing than interesting ones, which from historical perspective usually include disorder and conflict.”

The Phrase Finder, a wonderful site on word and phrase origins, describes the meaning of the phrase as “May you experience much disorder and trouble in your life.”

  • Although commonly referred to as an ancient Chinese curse, there is no equivalent expression in Chinese. Instead, it is now believed, it originated in about the beginning of the 20th century (beginning as living in “an interesting age”) and that it was mistakenly attributed as a Chinese curse by politicians using it in the mid 1930’s.
  • The phrase is also reputedly the first of three Chinese curses of increasing severity:
May you live in interesting times.
May you come to the attention of those in authority.
May you find what you are looking for.

  • The saying was used by Robert F. Kennedy in his Day of Affirmation Address in Cape Town, South Africa, in 1966:

  • The saying was also used by Hillary Clinton in her memoirs Living History, in 2003:
There’s an old Chinese curse, “May you live in interesting times,” that became a running joke in our family. Bill and I would ask each other, “Well, are you having an interesting time yet?”

  • Donald Sutherland's character in the film Disclosure says during a speech to his company, "The Chinese say, 'May you live in interesting times.' Well this has been the most interesting merger since my second marriage."

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