Nietzsche never copied nobody

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I live in my own place
have never copied nobody even half,
and at any master who lacks the grace
to laugh at himself — I laugh.

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Apparently this verse of Nietzsche’s was inscribed over the door of his house. There are many things I like about it, not least its emphatic double negative — or is that double-and-a-half?

9 Responses to Nietzsche never copied nobody

  1. Do urls work in these comments? Let’s give one a go:

    I ain’t never got nothin’ from nobody, no time

  2. Sean Jeating says:

    Perhaps the good Friedrich – mindful of Ulysses who would introduce himself to Polyphemus as ‘Noone’ – by writing ‘nobody’ just meant Homer?
    Well, and (to my knowledge) he did not copy Homer even half, did he?

    @ Pretty Far West: Thanks to Sony, in Germany the youtube entry you offered is not ‘available’.
    Your quote does already tell a lot, though. …

  3. I like it, I will have to think of a suitable piece of verse for above my own door!

  4. Barbara says:

    A quick search suggests that the original text is:

    ‘Ich wohne in meinem eigenen Haus,
    Hab Niemandem nie nichts nachgemacht
    Und–lachte noch jeden Meister aus,
    Der nicht sich selber ausgelacht.’

    So it’s actually a triple negative, which does have a certain logic to it (‘have never copied nothing from nobody’).

    The last two lines are slightly reminiscent of the Barber Paradox.

    I love your blog, Stan. I first stumbled upon it some time ago when I was investigating the finer points of hyphenation, and I’ve been hooked ever since.

  5. Stan says:

    PFW: That was a treat, thank you. It took the engine off my neck. Also: well coded.

    Sean: I don’t know if Nietzsche did copy Homer — it may be impossible not to, just a little — but the “Homeric question” interested him considerably. By Noone, do you mean No one, or am I missing a reference?

    Jams: It’s a good place for a practical message! My door currently has a short verse telling me that the space between my molecules will eventually span the galaxy, and that for now I should be satisfied in touching my toes.

    Barbara: Welcome! I’m delighted you stuck around even after reading my thoughts on hyphenation. Thanks for the kind words and for doing the research that I neglected to do in the whirlwind that was yesterday. The verse reads well in German; its triple negative make its pragmatics still more pragmatic. And you’re right about the barber paradox.

  6. Sean Jeating says:

    My fault, Stan. I could have checked first. Asked by the Cyclop for his name, the (English speaking) Ulysses answers: ‘My name is Noman’ thus not Noone which I wrote in one word to avoid splitting one name in two words.
    Sorry again, there’s obviously lots of chaos inside my head, these days.
    Oh well, didn’t Nietzsche let Zarathustra say [basically]: One does still need to have chaos in oneself to give birth to a dancing star”?
    Thus, there’s still hope …

  7. Stan says:

    It’s no bother, Sean. Given your fondness and talent for word play, I thought Noone might have been a deliberate spelling. If dawn be rosy-fingered, what might noon be! As for chaos, it’s full of potential and hidden order. I’m with Camus: “If the world were clear, art would not exist.”

  8. cantueso says:

    ‘Ich wohne in meinem eigenen Haus,
    Hab Niemandem nie nichts nachgemacht
    Und–lachte noch jeden Meister aus,
    Der nicht sich selber ausgelacht.’

    The double and tripe negative is not the same in language as in maths. In German (and also in Spanish) it is frequent and idiomatic, in some expressions simply correct grammar.

    I don’t know English well enough, but it seems to me that I have seen double negatives also in US black ghetto speech: “I ain’t got no bananas.”

  9. Stan says:

    cantueso: Yes, it’s a widespread misconception that formal logic is central to linguistic sense. There are different kinds of logic, and many of them are far removed from what’s usually meant by the word. Multiple (and non-cancelling) negation was common in most English dialects until a few centuries ago, before the rise of Standard English (and its perceived superiority) put an unwholesome spin on the dreaded “double negative”.

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