That ‘peccavi’ telegram and a nice compliment

Nigel Webb sent me a link to a Guardian restaurant review, for the sake of the Latin in it (both correct and mistaken). It’s a rave review, by the way. You’ll have to book ahead from now on, I guess.

But Nigel’s email is so kind that I can’t resist quoting it in full:

“Hi David

Thought you might be interested in a restaurant review from Saturday’s Guardian where Matthew Norman displays his little Latin – and makes a tremendous hash of updating Napier’s famous ‘Peccavi’ telegram.

Oneravim? Oneratus sum, surely.


Nigel Webb

PS I think your ARLT site is one of the best things on the net. Thanks for keeping us up to date on everything Classical.”

Address Sprigg’s Alley, Chinnor, Oxon
Telephone 01494 483011
Open Lunch, Tues-Sun, noon-2.30pm (3.30pm Sun); dinner, Tues-Sat, 7-9.30pm (last orders)

In an age when imperial warriors were better educated, if not better intentioned, than they are today, a Victorian warrior made a pun at which all future generations of Latin pupils were obliged to affect mild amusement. On capturing the Indian (now Pakistani) province of Sindh in 1843, Sir Charles Napier reported his triumph back to London with the single word “Peccavi”, meaning “I have sinned”.

OK, so no one will be rushing off to Boots for a ribcage repair kit, but that’s a shade cuter than “mission accomplished”. (By the way, should any US special forces on the verge of capturing Ossie BL be reading this, “oneravim” is the Latin for “I have been laden”.) And it’s not Napier’s sole contribution to British culture, because the old boy has also given his name to a restaurant that, as the mark over to the right indicates, did not sin in the minutest detail during a lunch of such superlative quality, and at such dementedly small cost, that credulity was stretched until it squealed for mercy.


Then again, and all in all, this was not merely the best value meal either of us have had, but among the best regardless of cost. Just like the Latin tense deployed by the conqueror of Sindh, it was perfect. Or, put another way, impeccable.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: