Inthe Morrises moved to Swindon where Desmond developed an interest in natural history and writing. He was educated at Dauntsey's Schoola boarding school in Wiltshire. After being demobilised inhe held his first one-man show of his own paintings at the Swindon Arts Centreand studied zoology at the University of Birmingham.
There is no doubt in the popular mind as to its origin. Everyone agrees that it hails from the days of gladiatorial combat in ancient Rome. Peter Quennell, in his book on The Colosseum describes what has now become the generally accepted scenario: So, if the defeated gladiator had fought well, he could be spared by a thumbs up gesture.
If he had fought badly, he could be slain by a thumbs down. This has become the dominant interpretation of the two gestures throughout Europe, and much of the rest of the world. What could be simpler? The answer is that it would indeed be a simple derivational explanation, if only it happened to be true.
But it is not. It is a complete Desmond morris of the facts, and the true basis for our modern usage comes from a different source altogether. What has happened is that, having acquired our modern thumbs up and down meanings from elsewhere, we have then blatantly re-written Roman history to fit in.
There are, in reality, no ancient references to the thumbs going either up or down in the Colosseum, at the vital moment of decision. Later authors who have claimed so have simply not understood the Latin phrases. Pollice verso does not mean a down-turned thumb it simply means a turned thumb -- one that is moved in some unspecified way.
No particular direction can be assumed. The posture of the thumbs of those wishing to spare the gladiator was pollice compresso -- compressed thumbs.
In other words, not thumbs up, but thumbs covered up -- thumbs folded away out of sight. What the spectators did, in fact, was to extend their thumbs for a kill and hide their thumbs for an acquittal. The reason for this is not hard to find.
If they wanted the victorious man to plunge in his sword, they mimed the act with their hands, their extended thumbs stabbing the air in encouragement. If they wanted to spare the defeated fighter because he proved himself valiant in battle, they did the opposite of sticking out their thumbs -- they hid them away.
If this was the true situation, then how has it come to be distorted by later writers? It is not even the case that the truth was completely forgotten.
Sir James Murray compiled the volume of the O. To close down the thumb premere was a sign of approbation: Different words this time, but still the same meanings and still no mention whatever of thumbs going up or down.
His entry is just as clear: In the ancient Roman combats, when a gladiator was vanquished it rested with the spectators to decide whether he should be slain or not. If they wished him to live, they shut up their thumbs in their fists pollice compresso favor judicabatur ; if to be slain, they turned down their thumbs Our pupular saying, Thumbs up!
Brewer does not hazard a guess as to why anyone should want to pervert so simple a truth. In a moment we shall do so, but first we want to consider some other distortions that occurred. Earlier authors usually made the opposite mistake.
This is hard to believe today, but the following quotations should be convincing enough. The Romans in the amphitheatre turned their thumbs up when a combatant was not to be spared.
But as the idea has been passed from author to author, the distortion has hardened. Sadly, it appears that translations from the Latin are often less than scholarly. In one case, we can actually watch the bias change as the years pass.
Either way, it means that the thumbs were being turned. Dryden, in his translation of Juvenal ingives the same passage as: So, from an ambiguous beginning the distortion has taken off, first in one direction, and then in another. The question we now have to answer is what is it that controls these directions?
Are they mere whims, or are there certain pressures being exerted to pull them one way or the other?The Naked Ape: A Zoologist's Study of the Human Animal (Hardback: ISBN ; Reprint: ISBN ) is a book by zoologist and ethologist Desmond Morris that looks at humans as a species and compares them to other animals.
The Human Zoo, a follow-up book by Morris that examined the behaviour of people in cities, was published in Morris Brown College | serving the educational needs of the best and brightest minds, while providing an education to students to compete on the college level. Desmond John Morris is most famous for his work as a zoologist and ethologist, but is also known as a surrealist artist and author/5().
Dec 29, · Desmond Morris turns his highly trained zoological eye on the differences in men and women, comparing different aspects of male and female . The idea that it is funny to see wild animals coerced into acting like clumsy humans, or thrilling to see powerful beasts reduced to cringing cowards by a whip-cracking trainer, is primitive and medieval.
Desmond Morris, surrealist artist site. Desmond Morris has been painting for over sixty-five years. He held his first exhibition in and his most recent in