Illegitimi non carborundum

Here’s an oddball digression for a rainy Sunday morning: Somehow or other, the phrase “don’t let the bastards get you down” came into my head this morning. I vaguely remember my dad using it in a letter he wrote me when I was in college. Or possibly seeing it used in a Kurt Vonnegut novel. Anyway, in the old days, this would have been a passing thought, but the internet exists now, so a passing thought can become an hour-long trip down the internet rabbit hole…

I first found a song titled Don’t Let The Bastards Get You Down by Kris Kristofferson. That’s clearly not where I first heard it, but it’s not a bad little song. Then I found a reference to Illegitimi non carborundum, a “mock Latin” phrase that’s meant to mean “Don’t let the bastards grind you down.” I remember seeing that Latin phrase before, probably in a book, though I still can’t find a reference to it in a Vonnegut book. (And reading the Wikipedia page for it, I see that John Boehner is apparently fond of the phrase, so that’s kind of disappointing.)

Searching further, I found a song by The Toasters called Don’t Let the Bastards Grind You Down, which is very different from the aforementioned Kris Kristofferson song, but still a pretty good song, if you like late-90s ska. And also definitely not where I first encountered the phrase.

And after even more searching, I found a reference to Nolite te Bastardes Carborundorum, which is apparently an alternate version of the phrase, used in Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. I did read that book in college, so I might remember it from there. And the phrase is used prominently in the season 2 finale of The Handmaid’s Tale TV show, so that explains it’s recent popularity as a tattoo. I haven’t watched that show, and I’m so far behind with TV that I probably won’t be watching it any time soon, but I’m curious about it.

So anyway, that was my internet digression for this morning. I’m not sure I learned anything useful, but it was kind of fun. The sun is up now, so I should probably brush my teeth and find something useful to do.

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