A glossary for the novel Such is Life

The novel Such is Life by Tom Collins (Joseph Furphy) is full of terms and references that would be unfamiliar to the majority of modern readers. Various words and phrases are listed here as an explanatory aid.

This list is limited in its scope; therefore anyone interested in further information may like to obtain a copy of The Annotated Such is Life (edited by Frances Devlin Glass, Robin Eaden, Lois Hoffman, and G.W. Turner; published by Halstead Press, Rushcutters Bay, 1999), which is a very useful reference tool that, in addition to the novel itself, includes 158 pages of annotations that explain most of the terms and references found in Such is Life.

affaires de coeur = French for an affair of the heart (a love affair)

Argo’s deck = in Greek mythology, the Argus was the ship (named after Argus, its builder) which carried Jason and the Argonauts in their quest for the Golden Fleece; on their return journey, when Orpheus heard the bewitching singing of the Sirens, he played music on his lyre to drown them out

Athanasius contra mundum = Latin for “Athanasius against the world”; Athanasius was a Christian bishop in Alexandria (in Egypt, then under Roman rule) who opposed, in the 4th century, the then-powerful Arian influence within Christianity and was subsequently ordered into exile by five different Roman emperors, which led to the phrase “If the world goes against Truth, then Athanasius goes against the world” and refers to the courage to act alone based upon the strength of your convictions

Beatrice = the phrase in the novel “Beatrice, on receiving a hint, run down the garden like a lapwing, to do a bit of deliberate eavesdropping” refers to a section of William Shakespeare’s play Much Ado about Nothing which says “For look where Beatrice, like a lapwing, runs close by the ground, to hear our conference”

Blackwood’s = Blackwood’s Magazine

blue-ribboner = slang for someone involved in the Blue Ribbon Movement, which was a temperance organization that originated in the USA and spread to other countries, including Australia; therefore, “blue-ribboner” was also used to refer to teetotallers in general (i.e. non-drinkers of alcoholic beverages) [see: “The Blue Ribbon Movement”, The South Australian Advertiser (Adelaide, SA), Thursday 11 January 1883, page 5]

bonâ fide = Latin for “in good faith”, often used regarding offers that are made in good faith and sincere (without fraud or deceit), or in relation to items that are genuine (not counterfeit or specious)

chiaro-oscuro = (also “chiaroscuro”) the arrangement of light and darkness in a work of art, especially the use of exaggerated light contrasts in a drawing or painting, often so as to produce a voluminous effect or a three-dimensional quality; from the Italian “chiaro” (light) and oscuro (dark)

de mortuis nil nisi bonum = Latin for “of the dead, nothing unless good”, from the phrase “de mortuis nil nisi bonum dicendum est” (“Of the dead let nothing but good be said”); the English equivalent is “do not speak ill of the dead”

dramatis personae = Latin for “drama characters”; referring to the characters or actors in a drama, play, story, or in a series of events

exeunt = Latin for “they go out”; commonly used as a stage direction to indicate that two or more performers leave the stage; in the novel the phrase “Exeunt fighting” may be an allusion to the phrase “Exeunt, fighting” as used in William Shakespeare’s plays Cymbeline, Macbeth, or Troilus and Cressida (or just to plays in general)

fakeer = (or fakir) a Hindu or Muslim monk or holy man, considered by followers to be wonder-worker; however, such “holy men” were regarded by Westerners as imposters or swindlers (hence the word fake) (from the Arabic “faqīr”, meaning “poor man”)

Formicae = Formica, the Latin name for a genus of ants of the family Formicidae, which are commonly known as wood ants, mound ants, or field ants (not to be confused with composite material known as Formica, which was developed as a substitute for mica, the mineral, hence the name)

fugit = Latin for “flees” (alternatively: hastens, passes quickly, or speeds) ; the sentence in the novel “How the tempus does fugit!” (“How the time does fly!”) refers to the Latin phrase “tempus fugit”, which means “time flees”, usually rendered in English as “time flies”

Geoffrey Hamlyn = a reference to the novel The Recollections of Geoffrey Hamlyn (published 1859) by Henry Kingsley (1830-1876)

gilgie = a small pond or pool of water (can also refer to a small gully or ditch; or a freshwater crayfish, like a yabby, in Western Australia)

in hoc signo vinces = Latin for “in this sign, conquer” or “in this sign you will conquer” (some translations use “by” in place of “in”); it was the motto used by the Roman emperor Constantine, when he adopted the “Chi-Rho” symbol of Jesus Christ for his army

Iolanthe de Vavasour = the use of the name “Iolanthe de Vavasour” may have been a joining together of some fictional characters, although there are several fictional occurrences of those names from the time of Joseph Furphy; for example:
* Iolanthe, a fairy (who commits the crime of marrying a human) in the play Iolanthe (1882) by Gilbert and Sullivan, which played in Melbourne in 1885 [see: W.S. Gilbert and Arthur Sullivan. An entirely original fairy opera, in two acts, entitled Iolanthe; or, The peer and the peri, Chappell & Co., London, 1882?; “Iolanthe”, Wikipedia (accessed 24 August 2012); “Saturday. May 9, 1885”, The Argus Saturday 9 May 1885, page 9; “Theatre Royal: Iolanthe”, The Argus Monday 11 May 1885, page 6]
* Iolanthe, the blind princess in the play King René’s Daughter, which played in Melbourne in 1858 and 1876 [see: “Theatre Royal”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Saturday 27 March 1858, page 4; “Theatre Royal: Mrs. Scott Siddons, as Iolanthe and Juliana”, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Monday 4 September 1876, page 6; Henrik Hertz (author) and Theodore Martin (translator). King René’s daughter, a Danish lyrical drama, Leopoldt & Holt, New York, 1867]
* Lady Marion Vavasour, the villainess in the novel Strathmore (1865) by English authoress Ouida (Maria Louise Ramé) [see: Ouida. Strathmore (Vol. I, Vol. II, Vol. III), Chapman and Hall, London, 1865; Joseph Furphy (author) and Frances Devlin Glass et al (editors). The Annotated Such is Life, Halstead Press, Rushcutters Bay (Sydney, NSW), 1999, page 441]
* Lucy Vavasour, a character (described as “wilful” and “saucy”) in a play by Edmund Falconer, “Extremes; or, Men of the Day”, which played in Ballarat in 1859 [see The Star (Ballarat, Vic.), Monday 21 November 1859 (page 3) , Tuesday 22 November 1859 (page 2) , Monday 28 November 1859 (page 3)]
* Rosalie Vavasour, a character in the story “Rosalie Vavasour ; or, The bride of Florence” (1838) [see: “Rosalie Vavasour ; or, The bride of Florence”, in The World of fashion and continental feuilletons (a monthly publication), Mr. Bell, London, 1838, pages 62-65 (see vol. XV no. CLXVIII, 1 March 1838, pages 49-72); The Australian (Sydney, NSW), Thursday 20 December 1838, page 4]
* Blanche Vavasour, in the story “Link Your Chain. A Startling Romance” (1873) [see: The Australian, Windsor, Richmond, and Hawkesbury Advertiser (Windsor, NSW), Saturday 6 December 1873, page 8]
Note: Besides being a surname, a “vavasour” may refer to a feudal tenant that is ranked directly below a baron (possibly derived from the Latin “vassus vassorum”, meaning vassal of vassals)

ipse dixit = Latin for “he himself said it”; an unsupported, unproven, or dogmatic statement that rests upon the authority of the person who makes it

John = Tom Collins refers to a Chinese man as “John” as it was common in those days to refer to any Chinese man as “John” (as in “Johnny Chinaman”)

Labarum = a Roman military standard, initiated by the Roman emperor Constantine, that used the “Chi-Rho” symbol (essentially, two letters crossed-over each other: X and P, being the first two letters of the Greek word for “Christ”)

latifundia perdidere Italiam = Latin for “the large estates destroyed Italy” or “the wide-spread domains ruined Italy”; a quote from The Natural History by Pliny the Elder (“if we must confess the truth, it is the wide-spread domains that have been the ruin of Italy”), said to refer to poor cultivation methods on the large estates (or possibly to the use of slaves by the big estate owners which rendered the small farmers uncompetitive, leading to large-scale unemployment) [see: Pliny the Elder (author) and John Bostock and H.T. Riley (editors). The Natural History of Pliny: Translated with Copius Notes and Illustrations, vol. IV, Henry G. Bohn, Covent Garden (London), 1856, page 14; “Pliny quote: latifundia perdidere italiam” (forum thread), UNRV History: The Roman Empire (accessed 24 August 2012)]

leper = when Tom Collins refers to a Chinese man as a “Manchurian leper”, it is line with the widespread belief of colonial times that many Chinese people carried the disease of leprosy

L.O.L. = Loyal Orange Lodge

malisons = a malison is a curse; a prayer that ill-fortune or harm will befall someone

mana = the power of the elemental forces of nature embodied in an object or person

Messalinas = Valeria Messalina was the third wife of the Roman emperor Claudius, who was executed for plotting the assassination of her husband

Michael-and-Georgeship = a reference to the Order of St Michael and St George, a British order of chivalry; the negative slant on it given in the novel reflects the disdain for British titles and honours common to those of republican leanings

modus vivendi = Latin for “mode of living”; a phrase which usually refers to an agreement between those whose opinions differ on a matter, i.e. that they agree to disagree, even if on a temporary basis, so that they can move on to other matters or to just let things be as they are

mot d’ ordre = French for “word of command” and used literally in this context (although in most other instances the phrase would refer to a watchword or countersign)

mummers = pantomime actors, or actors in a traditional masked mime

moke = an inferior horse (originally, it was a term for a donkey)

narangy/narangies = a narangy was a young man learning his way on a station, such as a jackaroo (a narangy could also be the overseer of a station or a self-appointed boss of dubious authority); from an Aboriginal word meaning little or lesser [see: “Bill Wannan talks . . . plain Australian . . . what’s a narangy?, The Argus (Melbourne, Vic.), Wednesday 4 April 1956, page 11; Joseph Furphy (author) and Frances Devlin Glass et al (editors). The Annotated Such is Life, Halstead Press, Rushcutters Bay (Sydney, NSW), 1999, page 341

nascitur, non fit = latin for “is born, not made”; often used with the phrase “poeta nascitur, non fit” (“a poet is born, not made”)

non generant aquilae columbas = Latin for “eagles do not beget doves” (in place of “beget”, some translations use “give birth to”, “breed” or “bear”); a quotation from Horace, Odes, 4, 31

nonpareil = an unrivaled or matchless item (in the novel, it refers to a pipe)

necessitas non habet leges = Latin for “necessity knows no laws” or “necessity has no laws” (usually expressed as “necessitas non habet legem”)

ne sutor ultra crepidam = Latin for “the shoemaker should not go beyond his last” or “cobbler, stick to thy last” (meaning “do not presume to address matters beyond your competence”; the phrase’s usage relates to a rebuke reportedly given by Apelles to a shoemaker who was critical of one of his paintings)

palmam qui meruit ferat = Latin for “let whoever wins the palm bear it” (meaning “let him who has earned it bear the reward”)

Persepolis = the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire of the ancient Persians

Potiphar = in the Bible, in Genesis 39, Potiphar was an Egyptian guard officer who had bought Joseph (the eleventh son of Jacob/Israel; who wore the “coat of many colors”) as a slave, but whose wife later falsely accused Joseph of raping her (Joseph was thrown in prison, where he eventually came to the notice of the Pharaoh)

pour l’amour de Dieu = French phrase meaning “for the love of God”

prima facie = Latin for “at first face”, referring to something that it is obvious “at first sight”, or to facts that bear out an argument “on the face of it” (in legal terms, it denotes evidence that would be sufficient to prove a particular proposition or accusation, unless rebutted)

puris naturalibus = Latin for “pure, in a state of nature”; completely naked; stark naked

quidnunc = someone who wants to know all the latest news or gossip; a busybody; in the novel, used in reference to the many questions from Dave

quocunque trahunt fata sequamur = Latin for “wherever the Fates direct us, let us follow” (a quote adapted from Virgil, Aeneid, book V, 709)

quod petis hic est = Latin for “what you seek is here” or “whatever you seek is here”

red-gummers = presumably men who cut down red gum trees; “illicit red-gummers” referring to those cutting down red gum trees illegally (red gum bricks used to be used to pave the streets of Melbourne, prior to asphalt road building)

sans = French for “without”; in the novel “his training must begin in early boyhood, and be followed up sans intermission” refers to training that must be followed up without a break

sansculotte = a labourer; from the French “sans-culottes” (without knee-breeches; without trousers), a term that arose in France in the 1790s to describe the poorer members of the Third Estate (it was also used to refer to a radical republican during the time of the French Revolution; alternatively, it may refer to a political radical or violent extremist in general)

semper eadem = Latin for “always the same” or “ever the same”

semper felix = Latin for “always happy” or “ever fortunate” (“felix” can translate as blessed, fortunate, happy, lucky, or successful); in this instance, the phrase is also a play upon words, as the scene involves a character whose name is Felix Moriarty (an earlier line in the novel says “Moriarty — whose front name was Felix”)

sic transit = Latin for “thus it passes”; in this context, it is a reference to the Latin phrase “sic transit gloria mundi”, which means “thus passes the glory of the world” (sometimes rendered into English as “worldly things are fleeting”)

Somebody’s Darling = possibly a reference to the poem “Somebody’s Darling” by Marie Ravenal de la Coste, who wrote it during the American Civil War (or, the War Between the States) after visiting military hospitals in Savannah where she saw the tragedy of so many wounded and dying soldiers; the poem was later set to music by John Hill Hewitt and became a popular song of the period [see: Barry Sheehy, Cindy Wallace, and Vaughnette Goode-Walker. Savannah, Immortal City vol. 1, Emerald Book Company, Austin, 2011, page 243]

strigula/strigulae = a genus (of the family Strigulaceae) of pyrenocarpous lichens; strigels were used as scrapers for cleaning in Roman baths

sua cuique voluptas = Latin for “every man has his own pleasures”, “everyone has their own pleasures” or “to each one his own pleasure”

tempus = Latin for “time”; the sentence in the novel “How the tempus does fugit!” (“How the time does fly!”) refers to the Latin phrase “tempus fugit”, which means “time flees”, usually rendered in English as “time flies”

Turanian = in this context, Turanian refers to Asians; from the theory that the three major races in Asia and Europe have three corresponding major language groups, being the Turanians (including the Ural-Altaic peoples and languages), Semites, and Aryans; in this particular instance, Tom Collins is referring to the Chinese [see: “classification of religions: ethnographic-linguistic”, Encyclopædia Britannica (accessed 24 August 2012)]

ver non semper viret = Latin for “Spring is not green forever” or “Spring does not always flourish”

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