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.
     
  8. hjr.lm7mudia.hntati

    hjr.lm7mudia.hntati Senior Member

    south carolina
    english-USA
    Based off of the physiognomy of her time, a large nose symbolized dominance and strong character.

    It basically means that if her nose , which equals her dominance and strength, was any shorter (weaker), she would have lacked the dominance and strength of character that led to the events that occurred.

    Basically, a small event may cause history to change course, resulting in different outcomes.

    O.T but historically, it's more accurate to say that Cleopatra was more desirable rather than “beautiful.”
    Her allure and charm had little to do with her physical appearance which was described as average.

    "For her beauty, as we are told, was in itself not altogether incomparable, nor such as to strike those who saw her; but converse with her had an irresistible charm, and her presence, combined with the persuasiveness of her discourse and the character which was somehow diffused about her behaviour towards others, had something stimulating about it. There was sweetness also in the tones of her voice; and her tongue, like an instrument of many strings, she could readily turn to whatever language she pleased..."
    Plutarch, Life of Antony (XXVII.2-3)
     

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