Posted by: Mark | August 4, 2017

Not Your Brother

Back in college I had someone tell me that before hippies, no one used the word “brother” in a figurative sense. I knew he was wrong. You read “Brother, can you spare a dime” during Depression Era stories all the time but in pre-Internet days, I couldn’t come up with anything solid to show him.

It turns out I had something solid at the time, sitting unread on my shelf. Individuals in Dante’s Paradise refer to Dante (his character within the poem) as “Brother” over and over. If I had only read Paradise when I should have,  I could have won the argument.

Technically, Dante and other Italians in the 1300s used “brother” when they needed to explain or correct someone gently. Instead of “Moron, the reason is…,” they’d say “Brother, the reason is…”

The closest English equivalent I can think of is when we use “look” or “see” in explanations. “Look, we gotta do it this way” is more abrupt and stern than “See, this is to everybody’s benefit.”

I guess it serves me right for not finishing Dante’s work. For all the trouble it gave me year’s ago, it’s going well now.


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