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If Cleopatra's nose had been shorter...

Discussion in 'English Only' started by azuki, Jan 21, 2010.

  1. azuki Senior Member

    Japanese
    Hello there,

    If Cleopatra's nose had been shorter, the whole face of the earth would have changed.

    The passage is said to mean the world would have changed by trifling things. I understand it. But what I am wondering is that how Cleopatra's nose relates to the the possibility of changing the history.

    Could anyone explain this to me?
     
  2. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    What you are asking isn't really then a linguistic question, is it, Azuki? I think the point is that Roman Emperors like Caesar and Anthony wouldn't have dallied in Egypt, and that would have made a difference to the way historical events unfolded.

    On a linguistic point, I'm not happy with your sentence:

    If Cleopatra's nose had been shorter, the whole face of the earth would have changed.

    This suggests a sudden change, there and then, brought about by Cleo's nose being shorter.

    I think what is meant is

    If Cleopatra's nose had been shorter, the whole face of the earth would have been changed.

    This suggests a more gradual ongoing process and is more in line with usual expressions like the whole course of history would have been changed.


     
  3. azuki Senior Member

    Japanese
    Thanks for your comment and correcting the sentence, Thomas.
    The reason I asked is that the saying doesn't make sense to me clearly.

    If Cleo had not been such the matchless beauty, as one of assumptions, the Roman Emperors wouldn’t have stayed longer in Egypt. The history might have been different. Could it be read this way?
     
  4. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Yes. That's what I was suggesting when I wrote: I think the point is that Roman Emperors like Caesar and Anthony wouldn't have dallied in Egypt, and that would have made a difference to the way historical events unfolded.
     
  5. azuki Senior Member

    Japanese
    I get it. Thanks! :)
     
  6. fmsnurse New Member

    English
    It simply means that if Cleopatra had been ugly then Mark Antony and Julius Caesar would not have fallen in love with her. Their love for her changed the course of the Roman Empire and thus, history.
     
  7. Thomas Tompion Senior Member

    Southwest France
    English - England
    Yes, it certainly means that, but there was a linguistic point - notice you use the same tense as came naturally to me.

    There's also the joke about the nose and the face of the world, of course.
     

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