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Blog criado por Bruno Coriolano de Almeida Costa, professor de Língua Inglesa desde 2002. Esse espaço surgiu em 2007 com o objetivo de unir alguns estudiosos e professores desse idioma. Abordamos, de forma rápida e simples, vários aspectos da Língua Inglesa e suas culturas. Agradeço a sua visita.

"Se tivesse perguntado ao cliente o que ele queria, ele teria dito: 'Um cavalo mais rápido!"

quinta-feira, 10 de novembro de 2011

Learning English from Cartoons: Berlusconi Fiddles While Rome Burns.

Aviso: esse tópico é recomendado para alunos com nível intermediário. Recomenda-se também que os interessados em aprender com essa charge leiam sobre o assunto que está em todos os sites do mundo.

Popular legend has it that the  Roman Emperor Nero played the fiddle (a colloquial term for the violin) during the   Great Fire of Rome in AD 64. This story has given rise to the idiom "fiddling while Rome burns", which means to occupy oneself with unimportant matters and neglect priorities during a crisis.
In this cartoon from The Sun, Andy Davey portrays Italian Prime Minister (but not for much longer) Silvio Berlusconi as the Emperor fiddling while Rome burns, a metaphor for the Cavaliere's failure to take decisive action to combat Italy's rapidly worsening debt crisis, distracted as he is by corruption trials and sex scandals (hence the bevy of beautiful maidens fleeing the flames).

In informal English to fiddle also means 'to produce false results or records, in order to get money or other benefits'.

 They all fiddle their taxes. 

Fiddle the figures/books/accounts
They accused the government of fiddling the unemployment figures.
In fact, Berlusconi has been accused of tax fraud and false accounting, which adds another possible layer of meaning to the cartoon.


The source of this phrase is the story that Nero played the fiddle (violin) while Rome burned, during the great fire in AD 64. [Link]

There are two major flaws with the story. Firstly, there was no such instrument as the fiddle (violin) in first century Rome. There's no definitive date for the invention of the violin, or of its synonym as fiddle, but it certainly wasn't until at least the 16th century. If Nero played anything during the Rome fire, it was probably the lyre.

Secondly, the story may be completely false and Nero may very well not have neglected his duty at all. Nero died four years later, and we should remember that history is written by the victors.

The historian Suetonius records the Nero was responsible for the fire and that he watched it from a tower while playing an instrument and singing about the destruction of Troy. Others record this story merely as a rumour.

By modern-day standards Nero certainly appears a bizarre character, but that doesn't make this story true. Roman scholars differ over interpretations of events surrounding the fire. The rivalries and conflicting accounts, even those in contemporary reports, make the 'fiddling' story uncertain.

Adapted from both  TheEnglishBlog & The Phrase Finder.

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