Several weeks ago, I noticed a new magnet had appeared on my fridge unannounced, a simple plastic card with the quote, “Fortune favors the brave.” I had two immediate reactions; “Where did this come from?” and “Uhhh, isn’t the expression ‘Fortune favors the bold’?”
Eventually the rest of the household came awake and I started asking, “Did you do this?” and Melody quickly fessed up. I wasn’t aware of it, but apparently it’s an expression I use often enough for her to remember, so when she saw the magnet she snagged it. Totally sweet.
I mentioned my uncertainty about the proper quote, so we did a quick Google search and concluded the more common expression is indeed “Fortune favors the bold”.
An ambiguous number of days later, I was the first awake (again), making the morning coffee (again), and my eyes passed across the magnet. “Fortune favors the bold.” Waitaminute… didn’t that used to say…? I was pretty sure I remembered looking it up and concluded the magnet was wrong, but here I am looking at it and now it looks right and… am I misremembering which expression is right and which is wrong? Is it possible one sounded “right” in my head a few weeks ago and now the other feels “right” this morning? I’m sure I looked this up, but now I’m looking at it again and… I’m so confused!
When Melody came upstairs I asked her, “I know this sounds crazy, but… did you change this magnet?” At which point she busted into the biggest grin and started giggling. Yes. The wench went into a photo editor, matched the font, size, and colors, printed it out, had it laminated and taped it over the previous magnet. Just to fuck with me. Brilliant.
And then a delightful coda to the story:
Last night I got curious about the source of the quote. I maintain any quote in English must come from one of only five sources; the Bible, Aesop’s Fables, Shakespeare, Mark Twain, or Oscar Wilde. Period, full stop, there’s the entire Bartlett’s Quotations right there. Well, it turns out this expression is from Latin; Pliny the Younger (a Roman politician) attributes the quote to his uncle, Pliny the Elder. The occasion was when Pliny the Elder was commanding his ship sail closer to Mount Vesuvius in 79 AD, an action that led to the Elder’s death as Vesuvius was erupting!
Which is to say, the entire expression should be loaded with irony! Fortune favors the bold, indeed, just like it did for Ol’ Pliny! It should be the Latin equivalent of “Hold my beer…” Sheesh.
Stay tuned next week when we discuss how Bugs Bunny single-handedly changed the popular meaning of “nimrod”.