One looks for the good, I think. So recently some of us have been repeating that old saw, May you live in interesting times.
A Chinese curse, we’re told. Or a blessing. May you live in interesting times.
But … it’s not Chinese. :)
I know, I know, I’m a wet blanket about these things—but it’s what I do for a living. I’m an editor. I check things. Fortunately I didn’t have to do the footwork on this one: Garston O’Toole over at Quote Investigator has the straight poop:
The British statesman Joseph Chamberlain was the father of future Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and future diplomat Austen Chamberlain. As noted previously, Austen asserted in a 1936 speech that “living in interesting times” was considered to be a curse in Chinese culture. Curiously, Joseph [also] used the same distinctive phrase during addresses he delivered in 1898 and 1901.
There’s a lot more to read at QI, which traces usage of the phrase from 1898 right up to modern times. You can also read about it at Wikipedia.
Bottom line: You can’t blame the Chinese for this, friends! But may you have an interesting year nonetheless. :)
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