Dinnertime Wit; or, Pass the PUNch

Petronius, Satyricon 36:

“No less pleased with this sort of joking, Trimalcho called, ‘Cutter!’ Immediately the meat-slicer entered and, making some gestures to the tune of the music, cut the food in such a way that you would think that a charioteer was battling to the accompaniment of a water organ. Trimalchio was nonetheless going on in a soft little voice, ‘Cut ‘er, Cutter!’ I, suspecting that the phrase repeated so many times must pertain to some particularly urbane witticism, did not blush to ask the man sitting next to me about the joke. He, having seen this sort of joke a few too many times before, said, ‘You see the guy who cuts the meat? His name is Cutter. Thus, whenever Trimalchio says, ‘Cutter’, he employs the same word to call the man and to command him.”

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Non minus et Trimalchio eiusmodi methodio laetus: “Carpe!”, inquit. Processit statim scissor et ad symphoniam gesticulatus ita laceravit obsonium, ut putares essedarium hydraule cantante pugnare. Ingerebat nihilo minus Trimalchio lentissima voce: “Carpe! Carpe!” Ego suspicatus ad aliquam urbanitatem totiens iteratam vocem pertinere, non erubui eum qui supra me accumbebat, hoc ipsum interrogare. At ille, qui saepius eiusmodi ludos spectaverat: “Vides illum, inquit, qui obsonium carpit: Carpus vocatur. Ita quotiescumque dicit ‘Carpe’, eodem verbo et vocat et imperat”.

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