Tu doces.

I was amused by the Victorian-era jokes in this Laudator Temporis Acti post (quoting a Classical Journal squib from 1925):

A correspondent recalls the following which he read in copies of Harper’s Drawer published 70 years ago:

Motto for a tea-caddy: Tu doces (thou tea-chest).

Motto given by a wag to a newly rich tobacconist who had just acquired a carriage: Quid rides (English pronunciation). Soon the tobacconist lost his money and absconded. The wag wrote on the door of the shop: Quid fles.

An English gentleman serving clam stew to his guests found much broth and few clams. In serving the last guest he searched long for a clam. Finally he brought up from the bottom of the tureen a single bivalve and exclaimed triumphantly: De profundis clam-avi (clam ’ave I).

Tu doces (which at the time would have been read aloud “too dough-seez”) means ‘you (sg.) teach,’ or in the fusty English of the Latinism of the day “thou teachest.” I found this clever enough to google it and discovered it was already a gray-bearded knee-slapper in 1856:

Quid rides means ‘Why are you laughing?’ and the second word would have been pronounced “rye-deez,” but here of course the jokester wants “rides (English pronunciation).” Quid fles means ‘Why are you crying?’ and the second word would have been pronounced “fleez,” like the verb “flees.” And the clam-avi (clam ’ave I) joke is a good illustration of the extreme nature of pre-reform anglicized Latin.


  1. David Eddyshaw says


    (Sadly, Napier seems not to have cabled this at all. It was Catherine Winkworth’s later joke about what he should have cabled.)


    (Yes, that Catherine WInkworth,)

  2. “Quid rides” was apocryphally proposed by wag John Philpot Curran to merchant Lundy Foot; since Foot died rich, the “quid fles” is definitely not a Curranism.

  3. Jen in Edinburgh says

    ‘Quid’ for tobacco feels like it should be in the Dickens glossary – is it more common in the US (where I believe people do still chew tobacco)?

  4. Sybille, si ergo fortibus es in ero; nobile Themis, trux. Vatis inem causan dux.

  5. J.W. Brewer says

    Was there a second Catherine Winkworth we might have gotten that one muddled up with? She was practically the John Mason Neale of the fairer sex, innit?

  6. Sybille, si ergo fortibus es in ero; nobile Themis, trux. Vatis inem causan dux.

    A different version seen here in 2018 (in the “In fir tar is” post), along with similar bits of japery (“Caesar adsum jam forte”).

  7. David Eddyshaw says


    Many and varied are the Catherines Winkworth. But I have said too much.

  8. Winkworth is “from Winkworth Farm in Lea (Wilts) which is recorded as Winkeworthe in 1248. … The Wilts place-name derives from an Old English personal name *Wineca + Old English worð ‘enclosure’.”

  9. Stu Clayton says

    Motto for a tea-caddy: Tu doces (thou tea-chest) … “too dough-seez”

    Any explanation of this would be welcome. Under the traditional Euclidean metric used to define proximity (= sound similar), I find no known word near “dough-seez”. Perhaps there is an injection into hyperbolistic space ?

  10. David Eddyshaw says

    Teachest. (Took me a while, too.)

    The pronunciation of the Latin is completely irrelevant (as with peccavi.) Presumably included as pure chaff, to throw us off the scent.

  11. There’s a story of some well-known person meeting his tutor on the Oxford quad. (I forget the name of the protagonist.) He is chewing tobacco, which is forbidden.

    Tutor: Quid est hoc?
    Student: Hoc est quid.

  12. The pronunciation of the Latin is completely irrelevant.

    Irrelevant to the joke, but extremely relevant to my interests, so I couldn’t resist mentioning it. I love Ye Olde Latyne.

  13. Haughty don, from high table: Another bottle of hic — hæc — hock! (Don takes umbrage when the bottle is not forthcoming.) Servant: I’m sorry, sir; I thought you were declining it.

  14. Ha! Rideo!

  15. David Eddyshaw says

    I love Ye Olde Latyne

    I am old enough that I actually use this, at least for the many Latin expressions with which I adorn my speech when conversing with my intimates. (Though not for declaiming beloved passages from Lucretius, as one so very often does. That would be silly.)

    This was probably reinforced by the fact that I went out with a lawyer for several years when I was young and impressionable. I should probably be grateful that I didn’t end up speaking Law French (which is of limited utility in West Africa.)

  16. that Catherine WInkworth

    aet. 16.

    Interestingly enough, Sir Sidney had his sister Elizabeth write a kind of combined DNB entry for Catherine and her sister, Susanna.

  17. Here is Notes and Queries of 1867 describing “quid rides” as an ancient joke, recalling that “quid est hoc? hoc est quid,” one at school, and adding another in the same spirit. That Thomas Burgess (bishop) recommended to his brother John (sauce magnate) Virgil’s description of Dido as a motto.

    gravi jamdudum saucia cura

    Grose had hoc est quid in 1811. Hotten had the joke more obviously in 1860. But here is it from 1790. (Does that mean Vinny Bourne?)

  18. David Eddyshaw says

    gravi jamdudum saucia cura

    Doesn’t seem to be a very upbeat association for one’s saucy product. It didn’t end well for the poor thing, either. Buy our superficially appealing yet ultimately untrustworthy product, get betrayed, commit saucide …

  19. Michael Hendry says

    If we’re adducing classical Latin that sounds like English words for food, Persius in his satires has ‘pasta polenta’ (3.55). ‘Pasta’ is a participle, and the phrase means the collective youth are ‘fed/nourished with polenta’.

  20. David Marjanović says

    …what was polenta then? Semolina?

  21. Michael Hendry says

    ‘Peeled barley’, says Lewis and Short, at logeion.uchicago.edu. I take it it’s now made of corn (maize), and belongs to the same general class as cream of wheat, oatmeal, and grits, differing mainly in the grain used to make the mush/porridge/gruel. Not that I’ve ever tried any of these except oatmeal (often), grits (now and then), and cream of wheat (in my childhood).

  22. Polenta is like grits, but with yellow corn, and may be cooked thicker, so it holds its shape, i.e. not a porridge. Mămăligă is similar to polenta, I gather.

  23. i often cook maize porridge variations, which i tend to call mamalige (af yidish) or grits. mamalige/mămăligă/polenta can be as solid as a dense bread (after it cools), and eaten in slices; i don’t think i’ve ever met grits cooked that thick. but the main difference as i understand it is that you use nixtamalized cornmeal for grits (which maybe marks its indigenous north american origins as a dish); the maizization of the european dishes doesn’t seem to have included that process.

  24. Michael Hendry says

    So polenta is basically cornbread?

  25. Polenta encompasses grits-type mush, or thicker stuff. Unlike cornbread, it doesn’t include other things (flour, fat) to help make it stick together.

    Nixtamalization might be too subtle for me. I haven’t compared them side by side, but from memory, I think tamale dough tastes pretty similar to thick polenta. Maybe tamales are less grainy?

  26. David Eddyshaw says

    Polenta seems pretty porridgey to me. Mind you, that may reflect my lifetime porridge experience.

    West African “TZ”/tuon zafi//saaba is the millet-based version. Porridge for Real Men (and Real Women.)* Something for effete foreigners to boast of having successfully eaten.

    * Also Real Children, who can then grow up big and strong to be Real Men and Women.

  27. Same as fufu or ugali?

    (If there were restaurants serving West African food near me and if they were cheap, I would eat there all the time.)

  28. David Eddyshaw says

    Not like fufu. (More gritty, and actually tastes of something. Also typically an appetising greyish colour, reminiscent of two-day-old slush.)

    At least, not like what Ghanaians call fufu (which is what those fancy Southerners eat instead of proper Northern “TZ”); I think the word gets applied more widely in some other places.


  29. Grits are not usually cooked to be sliceable, but that level of firmness is not really uncommon in the South either. I used to eat at a place that served their shrimp and grits with the grits cut into planks.

  30. As a rule, grits are made from dent corn; polenta from flint corn. Nixtamalized corn is hominy; not all grits are hominy grits. As with all such things, which of all these is the “real” one is highly locale dependent.

  31. i’m pretty sure i’ve had the millet-based porridge at one of the nigerian restaurants near me. i can’t remember what it was called, though, and my best guess at the restaurant was apparently wrong (they have cassava and two different versions of yam, under a general category of “fufu”, but no millet).

    the mennonites who i’ve been getting the best cornmeal i’ve ever cooked with from (roasted; stone-ground) don’t specify what variety they grow. dent or flint, it does make a delicious porridge. maybe someday i’ll try nixtamalizing some.

  32. David Marjanović says

    In my family we actually fry polenta in clarified butter, so it becomes crunchy. Also, I’m getting hungry.

    Nixtamalization remains unknown in Europe.

    I probably had the original barley-based version of polenta once; less soupy and less complex than described here.

  33. Stu Clayton says

    From the link: Etymologists suggest that ričet is a derivation from two German expressions: rutschen, “to slip, slide”, and rutschig, “slippery”. In fact, ričet is a fairly greasy dish.[1]

    Which etymologists ? I was of the impression that the field has moved beyond Suggestivetymologie. If not, then I suggest Ritschert Löwenherz.

  34. David Marjanović says

    Oh, I overlooked that; it’s not even mentioned in the German article. It strikes me as nonsensical; there is no form of rutschen with the umlaut you’d need to get to the i. Also, it’s the barley itself that makes it slippery, not any added grease.

    That said, the German article contains this sentence:

    Das Wort wurde erstmals 1534 im Klosterkochbuch von Tegernsee als ru(e)tschart genannt.

    The u(e) may simply be hypercorrect; the Bavarian dialects had long unrounded every ö & ü by then. But the second r is interesting; it’s way too early for non-rhoticity.

  35. Stu Clayton says

    There is no form of rutschen with the umlaut you’d need to get to the i.

    Then maybe Rutschart Hosenboden.

  36. In the WP article, Ritschert “has a historical reputation of being served to prisoners.”.

    in the WP article for barley: [In Japan] “It became standard prison fare.”

    In the WP article for kongbap: “Kongbap had long been a staple of Korean prison food. The Korean phrase kongbap meokda (콩밥 먹다; literally ‘to eat kongbap’) translates colloquially as ‘to be imprisoned.’ This is similar to a phrase in England with the same meaning: ‘to do porridge.’”

  37. Stu Clayton says

    The English Wipe link says Ritschert contains pot barley, beans, potatoes, carrots, parsley, celery, leeks, tomatoes, onions, garlic.

    A Croatian recipe in German says Sellerie, which is not celery (Staudensellerie) but celeriac. It starts with preparing a soffritto, which is composed of sedano (celery, not celeriac), carrots and onions.

    The taste and smell of celery are quite different from those of celeriac. I don’t think lasagne made with a celeriac soffritto would float my boat. On the other hand, I’m so used to celeriac in German stews like Ritschert that I wouldn’t expect celery to be an adequate replacement.

    Up until 10-15 years ago, celery was rarely found in German supermarkets. Now it’s always on offer.

  38. David Marjanović says

    Interesting. Under the name Stangensellerie it’s been widespread in Austria for much longer.

  39. Stu Clayton says

    Here in the Rhineland it’s called Staudensellerie. I imagine that two varieties of the “same” plant are involved. The above-ground part of the Sellerie plant are not very edible raw, but you can cook them in a stew to fine effect. The raw leaves by themselves are (in moderation) good in a salad.

    Contrariwise, I suspect that the below-ground part of celery (Staudensellerie) is not considered suitable for human consumption. That part is used as animal fodder, I’ve heard.

    The stalks of supermarket Staudensellerie look like they’ve been cultivated to stand straight and close together. The stalks of Sellerie are floppy afterthoughts.

  40. David Marjanović says

    Also Staudensellerie here in Berlin.

  41. Inspired by thus, I just searched Wikipedia for information about the slightly purplish wild celery/celeriac that once made me sick. I didn’t find what I was looking for, but I did learn that there is a moth, whose larvae feed on certain celery umbellifer species, known as the “setaceous Hebrew character,” because each wing sort of look like it has a נ on it.

  42. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    In Danish, asking for selleri will either get you celeriac or a question as to which you mean. (Though I think I once had to inform a callow youth what the name of the celeriac in the box behind him was). AFAICT it’s the same species but different cultivars, so if a celery cultivar even has an enlarged hypocotyl it may indeed not be worth eating, and neither the stalks of celeriac cultivars. Freshly harvested celeriac is sometimes sold with the tops still on, but so are carrots and most people just discard them.

    TIL that bladselleri is the common name of celery, but blegselleri is a product where bladselleri has been grown under controlled light conditions to make it paler. A bit like green and white asparagus. For years, people have been telling me that one was an eggcorn of the other, or variously the other of the one, and there are in fact dialects where they are probably homonyms, but there is a technical distinction. I don’t know what the trade name of the pale product is in German or English

  43. David Eddyshaw says

    the same species but different cultivars

    So ignorant am I of botany that I only really grasped this kind of thing quite recently (in the course of trying to understand how Kusaal za and naada could both be Pennisetum glaucum “pearl millet.” Judging by the muddle in the various Oti-Volta dictionaries, I was not alone in my ignorance, which is some comfort.)

  44. I once grew turnips from a cultivar bred for tasty greens. The roots were tiny and thin and not worth the trouble. Turnip greens are a favorite of mine.

  45. David Marjanović says

    Leaf parsley and root parsley are different cultivars. I’ve never seen pale celery or turnip greens.

  46. I’ve never seen root parsley, so we’re even.

  47. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    It’s more or less the same as parsnip, except it isn’t. When they are packed together (as soup vegetables) you have to look for a dent around the stems. That’s parsnip. It’s a bit sweeter and less flavorful. For some reason, the supermarkets often don’t carry parsley root.

  48. David Marjanović says

    Parsnip is awful; being sweet is part of that (…I don’t like raw carrots either). Parsley roots look very similar and taste fairly similar, but without the awfulness; I just bought some for soup – literally the last three the supermarket had; they’re out of season, in another supermarket I was told they haven’t been getting any for weeks.

    When they are packed together (as soup vegetables)

    An outrage; very much not wohl den Dänen und denen, denen die Dänen wohl sind. Here in Germany soup vegetable packages contain one or the other and (more or less) clearly say so.

  49. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Comrade, let’s join hands in the eternal struggle against the military-agricultural machine!

    Who will be the first up against the wall when the revolution comes? THE PARSNIPS!

  50. Careful now: ‘parsnip’ in Russian is пастернак [pasternak].

  51. David Eddyshaw says

    I am told that Welsh Duolingo is big on parsnips. I presume that this is hurtful stereotyping of some kind, and the joke is too subtle for me. Should I be eating more parsnips? Am I betraying my forefathers by my parsniplessness?

  52. parsniplessness perspicuousnessless

  53. David Eddyshaw says

    Impastinacity, then. (Much perspicuouser.)

  54. W-ary says Russian пастернак < Polish pasternak < MHG pasternack, pasternacke < OHG pestinac < Proto-WGmc *pastinakā < Latin pastināca < pastinum ‘A kind of two-pronged dibble’ < ¯\_(ツ)_/¯.

    How did the -r- come in, going from OHG to MHG?

    Likewise, why Early Modern English parsnepe from ME passenep?

  55. David Marjanović says

    How did the -r- come in, going from OHG to MHG?

    The undoing of the umlaut at the same occasion* can be explained through simple reborrowing, but I can’t make sense of the MHG and Low German -r-. The English one I guess could be from parsley

    * Also in modern HG: Pastinak(e f.) m. – note also lack of -r- and restoration of unstressed -i-.

  56. ktschwarz says

    why Early Modern English parsnepe from ME passenep?

    OED (2005): “The development of the β forms [with r] is unexplained.” The previous edition said it was “corrupted”.

  57. Parsnip pie is the third best vegetable pie desert, between sweet potato and black bean.

  58. PlasticPaddy says

    Lentils, parsnip, onion, carrots, cumin…

  59. Stu Clayton says

    Parsnip pie is the third best vegetable pie desert, between sweet potato and black bean.

    What is the maximum pie then ?

  60. Pumpkin, of course.

  61. Pumpkin is good but lemon meringue is best.

  62. David Eddyshaw says

    Lemon meringue is indeed the Ultimate Vegetable Pie. No truly competent appraiser of pies would dispute this.

  63. Stu Clayton says

    Lemon meringue pumpkin pie is conceivable, at least on American culinary principles.

    Just place a lemon baiser on top of the pumpkin pie.

  64. You know what’s also good? Shoofly pie. But if you eat it more than once a decade it will kill you.

  65. Stu Clayton says

    Shoo-fly has been categorized under desperation pies. I think I had a bit of “chess pie” years ago, and it must have been in Germany ! It was so sweet and cloying that I shudder to think of it even now.

  66. Yes, chess pie is similar. Sweet and cloying, indeed, but if you happen to be in the mood (and have some strong coffee to chase it with) that stuff can hit the spot. You do have to avoid strenuous activity for a while afterwards, though.

  67. David Marjanović says

    Shoofly pie.

    Oh, I could eat that.

    As dinner.

  68. PlasticPaddy says

    Why not? It’s Friday!

  69. Lars Mathiesen (he/him/his) says

    Let me adduce fløjlsgrød ~ ‘velvet porridge’. Basically sweetened bechamel sauce served as a dessert. Cinnamon on top makes it better.

  70. I had never heard of “shoo-fly pie” and urge the hyphenated spelling as a clue to its pronunciation. After reading the wiki, I hoped to find for a jaunty showtune lyric “wet bottom shoo-fly pie”; the closest was “Shoo-fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy” by Dinah Shore.

  71. The Shoo Fly Complex is not some Freudian thing.

  72. Stu Clayton says

    But greenschist facies does look rather disgusting.

  73. David Marjanović says

    Why not?

    Molasses are rather hard to get here.

  74. The Great Dyke of Zimbabwe is a another favorite.

  75. David Eddyshaw says

    A lost pornographic poem by T S Eliot.

  76. The Great Dyke of Zimbabwe
    Sat on her burnished throne
    And when she’d start to throb — hey,
    Her maid would make her moan…

  77. Shoo-fly Complex vs. Butterfly Complex.

    Compare and contrast.

  78. I used to get shoo-fly pie at Mom’s Dutch Kitchen when passing through Pennsylvania. That limited how often I could consume it.

    And lemons are not vegetables.

  79. David Eddyshaw says

    And lemons are not vegetables

    Pies are conventionally divided into animal, vegetable and mineral. Clearly, lemons fall into the second category.

  80. animal, vegetable and mineral

    You’ve left out ‘abstract’ (at 5:00).

  81. mineral pie would presumably be the aforementioned greenschist facies [**]; or something along the lines of Stone soup.

    [**] along the rim of the local volcano crater that forms our natural harbour lie the Remarkable Dykes (trachyte).

Speak Your Mind