[Ads-l] Quote: May you live in interesting times (Chinese curse?)

Benjamin Barrett mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM
Sat Dec 19 22:19:58 UTC 2015

I had always wondered about that expression, thank you.

FWIW, Wikipedia (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_you_live_in_interesting_times) has the original Chinese, tracing it back to a 1627 anthology by Féng Mènglóng. 

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA

> On Dec 19, 2015, at 12:51, ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       ADSGarson O'Toole <adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Quote: May you live in interesting times (Chinese curse?)
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Bonnie found a great new citation in 1936 for the expression "May you
> live in interesting times".  The QI website now has an entry on this
> topic. New citations and feedback would be welcome.
> http://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/12/18/live/
> Here is some background about the citation: The most fascinating
> periods in history were filled with tumult and upheaval. Tales of
> treachery, wars, and chaos provide compelling reading, but many of the
> participants who were living through the momentous changes were
> experiencing fear, hunger, and pain. Here are three versions of a
> saying that has commonly been described as a Chinese curse:
>  May you live in interesting times.
>  May you live in an interesting age.
>  May you live in exciting times.
> Fred and Ralph Keyes examined the supposed curse and found no
> substantive evidence that it was a genuine Chinese curse.
> Bonnie found the earliest citation containing the phrase and labeling
> it a curse. The phrase was used in a speech by Austen Chamberlain that
> was described in "The Yorkshire Post" of West Yorkshire, England in
> March 1936.
> [ref] 1936 March 21, The Yorkshire Post, Lesson of the Crisis: Sir A.
> Chamberlain's Review of Events, Quote Page 11, Column 7, Leeds, West
> Yorkshire, England. (British Newspaper Archive)[/ref]
> [Begin excerpt]
> Sir Austen Chamberlain, addressing the annual meeting of Birmingham
> Unionist Association last night, spoke of the "grave injury" to
> collective security by Germany's violation of the Treaty of Locarno.
> Sir Austen, who referred to himself as "a very old Parliamentarian," said:--
> "It is not so long ago that a member of the Diplomatic Body in London,
> who had spent some years of his service in China, told me that there
> was a Chinese curse which took the form of saying, 'May you live in
> interesting times.' There is no doubt that the curse has fallen on
> us."
> "We move from one crisis to another. We suffer one disturbance and
> shock after another."
> [End excerpt]
> Garson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

More information about the Ads-l mailing list