The Truth About the New Naso

Ralph R******n[1]

The team working on the New Naso updated Ralph (the fragment’s πρῶτος εὑρετής) about our findings. We ventured to ask him what he thought of the poem (in translation) as reconstructed by the team. Here is a lightly edited transcription of the voicemail message we later received:

Nah-then,[2] it’s just about nookie,[3] i’nt[4] it? All this “look at my conk”[5] cobblers.[6] Ere[7] now: we’ve got bull-men,[8] got Hercules wi’is great big[9] whoppin’[10] wanger,[11] someone called COCles,[12] and then “nose” this, “nose” that, nudge nudge, wink wink.[13] This Ovid fella[14] follows ’is “beak”[15] to please the ladies,[16] and they don’t ’alf[17] adore the prick.[18] At the end he’s all cock-a-hoop:[19] I mean, “Fabulous beak”[20] and “lucky nose” are dead[21] rude. It’s the sort of stuff I ’ear from Jeff,[22] Johnny,[23] Bill,[24] Steve,[25] John<,?> Thomas[26] [a string of other names omitted here] and Sinbad[?].[27] Well, you asked me what I think. Plain as punch,[28], s’all a total nosegay of utter poppycock.[29] The “Roman Nose”[30] is ’is ruddy todger[31] – y’know,[32] ’is Johnson![33] Bah[34]… [there follow muffled noises and hearty crunching]. Tara![35]



1 We here at Antigone are legally bound to take any individual’s right to privacy seriously.
2 As a mark of politeness, Ralph announces his dialect as “Northern” English from the start of the message. This proved to be an invaluable help to the team’s researches and workshops going forward.
3 This is affectionate slang across the British parts for sexual interimmiscence
4 Far-flung provincial dialectal variant for “is not” – now obsolete in scholarly climes.
5 “Conk” – sometimes “cong” – is an informal monosyllable in lieu of the standard “Nose”. While its geographical distribution is skewed towards places that still have cobbled streets, it is impossible to generalise further about its usage. For etymological information, please see the apparatus criticus ad v. 10.
6 “Cobblers” is vulgar slang for the testicular spheres. Although arising from the rhyming slang of East-End tradesmen (< “cobblers’ awls” ~ “balls”), its distribution is no longer considered the distinct idiolectal property of the people living in and around the hamlet of Cockney, Kent.
7 Ere =  “Here”. The loss of initial aspiration is common not only in North Yorkshire but cross-linguistically across the globe. After an intense debate among the editorial team, it was decided that it was more faithful and less patronizing to Ralph to assume that he would want the word thus mispelt.
8 A slight hyperbole: the figures Ralph should have given at this point of the count are x0.5 bull and x0.5 man units (if we follow the standard equipollent division of Minotaur phenotypes in Graeco-Roman-Etruscan statuary, art and tapestry). It is shameful and wrong for scholarship to be given over to pedantry, but we must add that, even if we count these two parts as constituting one whole ‘bullman’, it is quite inaccurate to imply that the Ovidian text presents a plurality of such tauranthropic characters, explicitly or implicitly.
9 Although Hercules’ musculature is well documented in the literary, visual and oneiric traditions of the ancient world, his membrum pendiculum is generally less marked compared to the already less-prominently-marked members of his fellow mythohistoric members. While we have not yet done the research to probe more intimately into what Ralph regards as “big”, we are reasonably confident that, were he to reflect carefully on the extant evidence from antiquity, he would perhaps recognize that he sorely misspake.
10 Despite our best efforts, which came to a head during an “away day” arranged to act out the possibilities, no agreement was reached about whether this word has onomatopoeic character.
11 While unsure as to whether we should instead transcribe the term as “w<h>anger”, we are quite confident that it means a male intercrural dangler.
12 Horatius Cocles (fl. late 6th cent. BC), on whom the most accessible summary is Munzer’s article at RE VIII (1913) coll. 2331–6.
13 Far from being actual imperatives demanding us to push each other in blepharospastic fits, this is an informal, if obsolescent, expression whose meaning may be glossed as “you know what I mean, don’t you, you dirty ol’ so and so!”.
14 Ovid. (“fella” is very probably a byform of “fellow”, showing the common disregard of the retired classes towards unstressed word-final quasi-diphthongs: the freedom from the shackles of diurnal work encourages these people to reduce this syllable to a mere ‘schwā’, a term that is itself of course pronounced with a closing schwa (/ʃwə/) north of the Trent.
15 We are given to understand that Ralph completed his School Certificate Latin (c. 1949), and was therefore doubtless aware that the fragments of Novius, Lucilius and Varro show rostrum (‘beak’) to have been used as slang for the nose.
16 N.B. The text strictly restricts the sphere of the pleasure (voluptas, s.v.l.) caused by the author’s “nose” to virginibus pulchris (16).
17 i.e. up to or including ‘fully’.
18 After a dispute over whether this awkwardly ambiguous term refers here to Ovid’s monstrum virile or (more pejoratively) to Ovid qua man, we regret to report that one third of the editorial team resigned, and will no longer be present for the footnotes that follow. We wish the prigs well in the world.
19 This phrase is an exuberant way of describing high spirits. It takes its origin from the mid-Georgian craze of “hoop tugging”, where ill-matched pairs of tavern-goers (who had left their better judgment behind) allowed their members to be leashed to a wicker hoop; the “tug-o-war” that followed would end either when the hoop snapped, in which case both parties would call a draw, enjoy ample refreshment and dance the ‘cockahope’, or when either of the competing agents snapped – whichever was the first to crack. A harrowing account of a mindbogglingly mismanaged competition in Hampshire may be read in the (often forcibly removed) appendix to Cobbett’s Rural Rides. The practice was declared illegal under Grey’s first ministry, but remained a common and contested event at country shows until the 1930s.
20 “Fabulous” reflects an unfortunate misunderstanding of the name “Fabullus”. We have since written a polite but firm letter to Ralph about this issue.
21 Adverbial intensifier (~”very”, “frightfully”) in certain North. Eng. dialects, shod of any of the inanimate character of its adjectival origins.
22 The pressing schedule imposed by the New Naso’s appearance has held the remaining two thirds of the team back from clarifying to whom these names refer. Our best guesses are given as placeholders. “Jeff” may be “Geoff<rey Chaucer>”: while only Ralph can know what he meant, it is possible that lines from the Wife of Bath’s Tale here resonated with him, consciously or no: “Yet I have Martes mark upon my face, / And also in another privee place.” The mark of Mars is, one presumes, something frightfully lewd. We are in the process of applying to the primary funding councils to explore this issue more richly.
23 We tentatively conjecture that Ralph refers to Johnny/Giovanni Battista Della Porta, who made this sort of case in his Physiognomia (1586): “Nasus correspondet praeputio: nam quibus longus et crassus, eadem mutonis forma, sic si acutus, vel crassus, vel brevis. sic narium qualitas respondet testiculis…”
24 Viz William Shakespeare (1564–1616). It is impossible to upturn the passage that was most in Ralph’s mind here, but perhaps it was informed by the crude obsession exhibited by Iras and Charmian about the dimensions of masculine verenda: IR: Am I not an inch of fortune better than she? CH: Well, if you were but an inch of fortune better than I, where would you choose it? IR: Not in my husband’s nose. (Antony and Cleopatra, I.2).
25 This name is rather easier to place, and tellingly shifts into a more modern medium. We all of course envisage Steve [Martin] channelling the hypersexualised, hypernasute character of Cyrano de Bergerac as ‘C.D. Bales’ throughout that canonic comedic staple Roxanne (1987).
26 These two names are equally opaque, a problem compounded by Ralph’s curious sounding of the twain together, as if Thomas – through the route of patronymic surname being reanalysed as an unmarked nominal suffix? – could become some form of enclitic postpositive. No speaker of RP English could contemplate uttering *John-Thomas.
27 Entirely baffling. This could be a corruption of J.B. Sinibald, whose Geneanthropeia (1642) reminded the world that “in viris grandem nasum ingentem praemonstrare mutonem”. The world sat up at Sinbald’s suggestion, and soon this doctrine was ubiquitous in medicine. Take, for instance, the innovative policies of the medical community in Salerno (conveniently ratified in verse-form for ease of recollection), who advise that “ad formam nasi dignoscitur hasta Priapi;… / noscitur ex naso quanta sit hasta viri. ” (vv. 1790, 1793, Collectio Salernitana: ossia documenti inediti 5, Naples, 1859, 51).
28 A thing older people continue to say in lieu of the more obvious expression “obvious”. Good punch, of course, has a rich but delicate balance of flavours, never without the suggestive hints of vermouth and vimto.
29 Construe: “The poem, although nonsensical, mounts a full-frontal assault on all the senses, especially smell, common and good.”
30 This phrase is generally used to mean a prominent, aquiline/equilinear nose, as is often found on Roman coins. Ralph seems instead to use the phrase “Roman nose” as if it meant a “Roman knows-his-nose-goes-like-a-hose”: seen from this challenging angle, whatever is nasal is inevitably penile. While we do not ourselves accept the claim that Ovid’s unremitting focus upon his “nose” reflects some species of autoerotic obsession, it is true that one may, in quieter moments, drift into thinking of a notorious epigram of Martial (6.36, scr. AD 91): mentula tam magna est, tantus tibi, Papyle, nasus, / ut possit, quotiens arrigis, olfacere. Given the illustrative limitations of the unfairly maligned academic footnote, these lines may be rendered more safely in Italian: Tu o Papilo, hai una mentula sì smisurata, ed un sì gran naso, che potesti, ogni volta che arrigi, flutarla. This less aggressive language may be safely rendered into English via the words of Fiona Pitt-Kethley: “His tool was large and so was his nose,/ Papylus could smell it whenever it rose.” One may also suppose that Ovid was aware of the erectile surges in Horace’s curious mention of a naris obesae (Epod. 12.3), which one of the Watsons has explored at length in comm. ad loc., prompted by the suggestion of one of the Browns (QUCC 14, 1983) that ῥῖνες = penes ad Ar. Nub. 344. (It is probably not worth adding that K.J. Dover, in a note that suggests the distracted mind of one who desperately needs the release of a stiff walk up his favourite mountain, objected “The joke is mysterious; the Scholiast suggests that the Chorus wore masks with grotesque noses – but why?”.) All parties confess that they have taken their prompt from one of the Wests’ more cocksure ideas about Hipponax). One may also wander through ancient Rome (vid. Graffiti del Palatino, 1970, II, ##25, 36) or Pompeii (e.g., CIL 4,7248) and wonder why the locals keep drawing or even carving men with penes protruding from the typical location of noses (see further J.N. Adams, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary (1987, 2nd Viennese ed.) 275, pll. 4 and 5 with fold-out). But these and like speculations are entirely idle.
31 A term very roughy equivalent to “little red phalarope”
32 An offhand expression that suggests, often incorrectly, the interlocutor’s prior knowledge of the subject at issue. Think of how the average person uses enclitic τοι.
33 That is, is the lead figure in the public “government” of his body politic, willy-nilly.
34 An exhausted ejaculation, presumably infused with its palpably bovine character by dint of the top tup tekkers of the Settle environs.
35 We presume that Ralph ends the message by calling a woman of this name (his wife, if married?) by this name. Yet the remaining 21 minutes of voicemail monologue, which range widely over topics including beans, traffic and Kellogg’s Start before terminating with the same irate, and not entirely anantanaclastic, apostrophe of the name, do not allow for certainty on this point.