Sublime to the ridiculous

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Karpalo

Member
Finnish
Hello,


I'm working on a Finnish translation for a travel documentary called Sahara (with Michael Palin). I don't understand the following scene:

Guide: Now this place became a kind of centre, training centre for young girls of Kasbah to teach them how to make good couscous.
Michael Palin [laughing]: Yeah. Couscous, that's a bit of sublime to the ridiculous.

Could someone please explain what Michael's response means? :confused:
 
  • Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Couscous is a staple dish in this region, so it strikes Michael Palin as rather ridiculous that the girls of Kasbah need to attend a training centre to learn how to make couscous. I think the assumption is that they're surrounded by good couscous cooks and should have learned it years earlier, perhaps from their mothers or at least other relatives.

    The expression "(going) from the sublime to the ridiculous" is well-known and means going from something exalted or appreciated or held in awe to something that is fairly laughable. Perhaps in this case, he's referring to couscous itself as being sublime (a wonderful dish) that has been reduced to a ridiculous circumstance by having to be taught to a people who created the dish in the first place.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    It is hard to know what he is on about. It certainly means:
    going from something exalted or appreciated or held in awe to something that is fairly laughable.

    but copyrights suggestion seems a bit strained to me. It is hard to see how the phrase really fits with the couscous idea.

    Maybe it is a reference further back in time to whatever the place was used for BEFORE its change of use to this training centre?
     

    ewie

    Senior Member
    English English
    What were Michael Palin and the guide looking at before they went to this training centre? ~ whatever it was, I would imagine that was the sublime thing.

    As you can see, Karpalo, it's impossible to know exactly what he means without having seen the programme.
     

    Biffo

    Senior Member
    English - England
    I think he is punning about the fact that lime juice is often an ingredient in couscous. He may also be saying that it is ridiculous to teach the making of couscous to people of the Kasbah because it is an indigenous dish.

    Overall however, he has made an off-the-cuff remark during an interview and it may not make complete sense.
     

    Karpalo

    Member
    Finnish
    Before this they were walking around the Kasbah discussing how the place used to be the centre of the Algerian resistance against the French. So this could very well be the sublime thing, as ewie suggested.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, I think I have watched this episode. Yes, the Algerian resistance against the French is something of great import. Good couscous seems frivolous by comparison. So our ewie is right as usual! :) And suzi br too.
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    Mmm ... I agree about the sublime, but it couscous doesn't seem ridiculous by itself -- would he really call a staple dish ridiculous? What seems ridiculous is needing a training centre to teach girls to cook the staple dish of their region.

    But I've been wrong before.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    Yes, of course. It's not the couscous itself that's frivolous sounding. It's how the centre was first used for training the resistance and is now used for training girls how to cook. From lofty to mundane. (I think 'from the sublime to the ridiculous' needn't mean that the activities were themselves sublime or ridiculous - only that they were very varied. So if I played some Rachmaninov, followed a Beatle song, followed by ragtime music - that could be described as being 'from the sublime to the ridiculous' too, without necessarily implying that any of that was ridiculous. At least that's how I use the phrase. :rolleyes:)
     
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