Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Voltaire Rolls in His Grave

Voltaire's Death Mask

"In the castle of Baron Thunder-ten-tronckn in Westphalia there lived a youth, endowed by Nature with the most gentle character." —Candide (opening sentence)

A few months ago while I was in bed trying to fall asleep, the word "Westphalia" from Voltaire's Candide randomly popped into my head. Instantly I realized how much "Westphalia" sounded like "West Philadelphia," and, as someone who grew up watching too much '90s television is wont to do, I wondered how the first sentence of Candide could be re-written to match the theme song of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. In my head I sung: "In Westphalia, born and raised, on a courtyard is where I spent most of my days." And that was enough to amuse me until I fell asleep.

Weeks later I remembered it again and decided to see if anyone had ever toyed with the connection.

After searching various phrases, I found the following (via Philosophy Archive):

"In the country of Westphalia, born and raised, in the castle of the most noble Baron of Thunder-ten-tronckh, I spent most of my days, lived a youth whom Nature had endowed with a most sweet disposition."

Was this someone's subtle prank? Considering that this exact opening sentence is to be found nowhere else online, yes, I'd say it is. Also, the key phrase "I spent most of my days" is clearly just jammed in nonsensically.

Someone else, in a YouTube comment, went even further:

"In Westphalia born and raised,
Learning from Pangloss was where I spent most of my days.
Philosophizing, thinking, dreaming all year
And knowing that the world was nothing to fear.
When innocent Cunegonde was up to no good,
Dropped her handkerchief and in a flirty mood.
I gave her one little kiss and the baron got scared
He said Go somewhere, as long as it's not here!"

And that, my friends, is how dreams become nightmares.

fresh prince, voltaire, candide

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