I just finished reading “I Am Livia,” a recently published historical fiction novel by Phyllis T. Smith about Livia Drusilla who you will all remember as the wife of Caesar Augustus back in the good old days circa (<—wink, wink, Latin!) 20BC – 50AD.
Livia’s rep and street cred took a massive beat down in Robert Graves’ acclaimed novel “I, Claudius” which was also a popular TV series in 1976. In that telling, Octavians’ main squeeze Livia was more evil and manipulative than Maleficent, Machiavelli and Miley Cyrus wrapped up in one. ( I double dog dare you to click the Miley link.)
Like “I, Claudius”, “I Am Livia” is a well researched work but it is a far more sympathetic portrayal of this very strong woman. It is also far more readable in my humble opinion. Frankly, I always thought Tiberius Claudius came across as a bit of a whiner and a pain in the gluteus maximus. But I digress.
My wife, the Alpha Japanese Female, dislikes it immensely when I read books about ancient Rome because she knows that for the next few days I will be spouting pig and fake Latin at every opportunity. Don’t get her started on my Spartacus shtick.
I find it irresistible, especially when your doggie is named Max, or as I prefer to call him, Canis Maximus. That inevitably morphs into Puppus Maximus Maltesii and then by about 5:30 each afternoon I inquire in stentorian voice, “Atwhay imetay isway innerday?” The question inevitably crashes against a wall of silence.
It’s about then she gently suggests that my enthusiasm has extended past its humor value. In her words, “Shut up.”
Et tu, Wifey?
The thing is, word play often fails when the parties do not share the same native language. Sometimes the issue is vocabulary as when my wife told the story (recounted on this blog in an earlier post) of an acquaintance who died from a “massive brain hemorrhoid.” Hemorrhoid/hemorrhage. Potato/ potahto.
Sometimes it’s just the word play itself that fails. A recent example of linguistic crash and burn:
Me: How do French cats communicate?
Me: They chat.
Insert the stare one might give to a slow and not very amusing child.
Here are some other recent linguistic humor disasters:
Sigh. Now I’ve probably infuriated all three of my regular readers, too. Oh well, enough for today. I think I’ll go back to dog stories. Besides, it’s easier to communicate with imagery.
For example, the photo below is easily understood and fittingly titled “Guilt”.