June 24, 2002
Owed to Joy

In last week's e-mail I found a reference to a particularly apt quote, something to the effect of: "Against stupidity, even the gods struggle in vain." This person had taped the sentence, in German, to the wall of her office. I don't speak German. but I thought the quote might make a nice thing to scribble on the margin of my notes during two-hour meetings. So I set out today to find the original owner and the exact quote.

Naturally, nothing is ever easy. Probably due to difficulties with translation, there are multiple iterations of this saying. More disturbingly, as I found with the geese earlier this year, there are multiple attributions. Here are some of the many permutations:

This is the basic quote, attributed, most likely correctly, to Schiller.

Others (OK, "Dr. Weevil,") attribute it to Nietzsche.

Another view says that Nietzsche actually said "Against boredom, even the gods contend in vain," which I don't think is half as catchy, in response to Schiller. ("Dear Friedrich: Sorry, but it's boredom that's the real problem. My kids have been driving me nuts this summer. Love, Friedrich.")

I found two slightly different German versions, which I can't translate:
Mit der Dummheit kampfen Gotter selbst vergebens
Gegen dumheit kempfen selbst die Goetter vergebens (this one, by the way, attributed to Goethe.)

I also found multiple attributions to Isaac Asimov (or, as one hapless person put it, Azimov.)

Even the Aryan nation idiots have latched onto it. I found several song lyrics, too creepy to link to, making reference to the same quote.

Wouldn't they hate to see that someone else attributes the quote to the author of The Joy of Yiddish, Leo Rosten.

In desperation I turned to Bartleby.com, which confirmed that the quote originally comes from Schiller, in The Maid of Orleans, his tragedy in which Joan of Arc is burned at the stake. Ach, du lieber!

Posted at June 24, 2002 09:44 PM

Hey Anne! Look!

It's my well-known (to you, by now, I assume) buddy Ken and.... Dr. Weevil!

Apparently the good doctor drove down to New Yawk for the blogapalooza a week or so ago.

That's the Doctor in the lowermost left corner. Ken's front right.


Posted by: Mike on June 25, 2002 01:28 AM

Hey! It's a small world.

Posted by: Anne on June 25, 2002 09:03 AM
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