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“Anything is in my power but making epigrams.”
The epigram in epigrams
“Epigrams are surprising, short and often interesting statements – to put it more clearly, often so unsurprisingly short that they need such explanation that they become uninterestingly long.”
“Epigrams are never satyrical or ironic at all.”
“The ever-present paradox in epigrams is that they never contain paradox.”
“When an epigram seems unclear, this is an aim to set the reader thinking and so reach absolute clarity.”
“Most important about epigrams is their unimportance.”
“The fewer words, the more information an epigram contains.”
“Because epigrams are often so short, they are easy to remember, so they last long and survive, and are thus short-lived.”
“The unfinished epigram does not exi”
Creators of epigrams
Epigram creators can sometimes be rather boring, book-addicted so-called nerds.
“As long as an epigram creator is alive, you could argue he doesn’t have a life.”
“Yet a prove of being alive only goes by way of dying.”
History of epigrams
“Epigrams do not have a history, for it was the epigram that existed before history.”
This is, of course, only partly true, and not only because Oscar Wilde was yet again trying to be a smart ass.
In ancient times, as today, there were always urgent messages designed to be read promptly by the recipients.
Unfortunately, in those same ancient times, there were no methods of communication available to ancient peoples that would ensure such a thing; the best that could be achieved was for a runner to be despatched carrying the message wedged in a forked stick. One such message that itself was an important turning point in communications was the news of the battle of Marathon in the time of Ancient Greece.
The Greek ruler of Athens at the time, Aristotle Onassis, was at war with a renegade band of carpet weavers from Tehran, led by Darius the Stainproof. The two sides fell into battle at Marathon; it proved to be the turning point for the Athenians. Expecting news of the result, Aristotle had stayed up. Unfortunately, the message, sent from Marathon to Athens carried by Philip Mecuppides, was delayed for technical reasons; for example, his GPS device was essentially useless because, at the time, there was no way to get satellites into orbit. But the prime reason for the delay was the lack of a functioning communications system. While Aristotle was waiting for Phil to arrive, he took up building model boats. Eventually, he married a woman from a country that had not been discovered yet, and forgot why he had been staying up in the first place. Phil finally arrived 26 years and 385 hours later, only to discover that the once-important nation of Greece had fallen to second place behind Rome and Aristotle was long gone on vacation to Florida (and was lost, because Florida was still undiscovered.
Enter the Romans, along one of their many roads; they were not slow at finding ways to resolve the problem of delayed wartime communications; Emperor Julian Calendarus sought out Martial, who had been responsible for law enforcement in the Spanish quarter of the Empire, to come up with a solution. Martial quickly came to the conclusion that forked sticks were no longer acceptable, but felt hampered because his research had showed that Marconi would not be born for more than one thousand years and telegrams were therefore quite impossible.
Such a delay was unacceptable, so Martial came up with a solution that would work immediately, and would spread the message widely and therefore increase the likelihood that it would be passed to the intended recipient as soon as possible. He set about building walls, and training teams of warrior poets to write messages upon them. By virtue of the natural human ability to gossip, the messages would travel rapidly and, sooner or later, arrive at the intended recipient (as well as everybody else). Believing that the Latin language was going to last forever, he decided that if telegrams were not even likely to happen in his lifetime (and it was partly a Greek word anyway) Martial decided to pick a name that was almost, but not quite, entirely different. He decided upon a word that had both Greek and Latin origins; it had an element that showed the Romans could get a message after only a small wait, but acknowledged that the Greeks had begun the process and that it still wasn’t completely done because he still couldn't send a telegram.
“Epi” was a Greek word for “nearly”, and he knew that if a gram was a wait, it was a really small one. The word he brought into use was “epigram” (nearly a small wait).
Martial became obsessed with communicating knowledge, and gave up law enforcement to write epigrams on any wall he encountered. He might be best known for his own epigrams, such as:
- "You said we could do lunch, but never told me you were a Vegan, whatever that is."
- and the somewhat puzzling "I might be Spanish, but I didn't expect a kind of Spanish Inquisition. And what kind of name for a big snake is Monty anyway?"
The team of warrior poets increased exponentially (ad exponentum) across the Roman Empire, and messages began to appear on walls in all corners of the known world, as well as in some places that were not corners.
It did not take long before the messages were less likely to contain news than they were expressions of frustrated literary ambitions. Many poets were angry that the printing press had not yet been invented, let alone Internet Blogs. Eventually, “in omnibus graffitiorum” (graffiti everywhere, even on public transport) became a fact of life.
It remained so until the last few decades of the 20th century. But it is still true that epigrams owe a great deal to the Roman Empire, if not Martial Law.
Confusion with the words epitaph and epigraph
“Confusion of the words epitham, epigram and epigrath is utterly impossible. ”
The word epigram was first used by fifteen-year-old vandals who were prohibited by their parents to surf on the internet. The parents suffered from a mental complaint called tired-of-stumbling-against-masturbating-offspring syndrome, and so felt themselves morally obliged to exert their parental powers. The younglings, cut off from their world of Playstation 3 online multiplayer game and internet porn, soon discovered there was another universe, in which lovely flowers could be touched and smelled and plucked, where face-to-face conversations could be held in glows of social delight, a beautiful world where the real, the genuine material joys could be felt, such as the vagina. When they complained about the abundance of time during which they didn’t know what to do, they were given sermons that contained such phrases as “When I was young/your age”, “good old days”, “used to play outside”, “knew what to do” and “I don’t give a damn, just get yourself out o’the house, I’m tired of seeing you all day”. Although at first disappointed by this expulsion, they became very relieved when they discovered that this put an end to the bizarre nocturnal creaking of their parents' bed and their inexplicable nocturnal groaning. Anyway, at this point the youths entered their street gang phase, one of the natural steps in the process of growing up, such as also the realization that women generally prefer men shaved, washed and clothed, or the discovery that adult life causes HIV. They started dedicating their lives to the noble art of vandalism. Offering people free toilet rolls by means of throwing them at their homes was one of their main activities, as well as experimental modern graffiti painting in public space, often containing fertility symbols, phallicisms and own spelling interpretations, e.g. R.E.S.P.E.K.T. U GANGSTA. Another way of artistic self-expression was cemetery rearrangement, which carried with it adjustments like de-corpsement, tombstone devastation and, most important of all, graffiti-daubing of tombstones. These exquisite graffiti studies contained the pre-mentioned themes, as well as brief odes to the buried ones. It should be known that these younglings had their own interpretation of the word “epic”. It is used in sentences like “Epic!”, “This is epic!”, “Epic, man!” or “Homer’s Oddessey is sooo boring. Not epic!” When they first sprayed the words “Epic grandma!” on a tombstone, the word “epigram” was born. It would later become more and more used in the sense of “short statement” rather than “short ode”. Or wait, it shoud be epitaph, so it’s not – no, it is epi-graffiti, so it’s epigraph – or perhaps it was epigram? No, it’s definitely epitaph. Or maybe it isn't. Whatever.
Overusage by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde himself is more overused, for examples in certain satirical open-source wikis, than he overused epigrams.
“Though I am at present tamed as an animal, why am I still being called Wilde?”
Other examples of epigrams
“To preserve the right to live, you gotta fuckin’ kill these murderers”
“Calling a nigger “nigger” is racist and just ain’t acceptible!”
“He who uses “he” for “he or she" is an anti-feminist!”
“To be or not to be: that’s not even a sentence”
“Smurf is never smurf.”