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  • Quote of the Day

    Posted by Chicago Boyz Archive on November 3rd, 2005 (All posts by )

    Against stupidity, the gods themselves fight in vain.

    — Friedrich von Schiller


    6 Responses to “Quote of the Day”

    1. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Do you have the quote in German?

    2. Lex Says:

      No. It is a pretty well-known quote. I have seen it set forth in several slightly different ways in English. Please report back if find the German and have any different spin on the translation.

    3. Ralf Goergens Says:

      There are several paraphrases, but I think this is the original quote:

      “Mit der Dummheit kämpfen Götter selbst vergebens.”

      It’s a translation from late 18th century German, but syntax has shifted by now. ‘Mit der Dummheit kämpfen’ literally means ‘Fight with stupidity, and not ‘Fight against stupidity’, as most of us would say in modern German (some still use the older version, though, while fighting with rather than against has survived as part of certain figures of speech, as in Ich kämpfe mit mir selberI’m fighting myself

      We also would use an additional article and change selbst to selber , since ‘selbst’ has largely lost the connotation ‘himself’ or ‘themselves’. When we say ‘selbst’ today we mean ‘even’, as in Selbst die Götter…Even the gods…

      ‘Selbst’ in it’s old usage also has survived as a part of figures of speech and phrases:

      Die Sprache selbst… – Language itself, as just one example.

      My example Selbst die Götter already contains the additional article die (in it’s third person plural usage).

      Either way, nowadays we would say ‘Gegen die Dummheit kämpfen selbst Götter vergebens’

      ‘Against stupidity even gods fight in vain’

      or, which only seemingly contradicts what I wrote above

      ‘Gegen die Dummheit kämpfen die Götter selbst vergebens’

      ‘Against stupidity the gods themselves fight in vain’.

      Most people have heard this sentence at least once, so they derive their phrasing from Schiller’s old quote. If they hadn’t heard it
      before they would definitively use the phrasing from the first example.

      If you google for it, though, you’ll find several versions, for some people did modernize the phrasingf when they use the quote.

    4. Ralf Goergens Says:

      I seem to have forgotten to close a italic tag or two in the second paragraph.

    5. Robert Schwartz Says:

      Thank You Ralf.

    6. Ralf Goergens Says:

      You are welcome, Robert.

      Btw, since I mentioned changes in German language: If your ancestors had emigrated in the early 20th instead of the (I guestimate) mid-19th century, you’d be called ‘Schwarz’ instead of ‘Schwartz’ :)