I was drinking at the Captain’s Bar one evening when the long-chinned dandy appeared. I raised my glass to the strange fellow, my rusty Latin springing to my mind for no particular reason. “Prosit!” I exclaimed.
Light came to the young man’s face. He rushed over and sat down on the stool next to me, breathlessly telling me about the doctorate in Classics he held. Realising that Cicero was not the road to riches, he had joined the world of banking. But his Latin had not left him — and he admitted that it occasionally burst out at the most inopportune times.
On one such occasion, he was chatting with his boss about a new set of Chinese regulations. The new rules were just like the old rules, always leaving room for the “relevant person” in the “relevant department” to give the final say.
“I thought I’d throw out my Latin to impress my boss,” he told me. “I said, ‘Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?’ It did not work.”
Frustrated by his boss’s lack of interest in ancient wisdom, the young banker went back to his desk, only to be greeted by an email from his boss email — once again asking for clarification on the new rules.
Without giving it much thought, he started typing the translation of the Latin phrase, adding its original context: “I hear always the admonishment of my friends: Bolt her in, constrain her! But who will guard the guardians?”
He admitted over drinks that this was probably not the best way to advance in his career. His boss, no doubt, just asked someone else.