Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Forgive Me, For I Have...

This is Sir Charles Napier, GCB (1782—1853), an Englishman and colonial warrior who came up with what was probably the most famous pun of the 19th century.

In the 1840s, Major General Napier led British troops in conquest into Sindh Province, which today is part of south-eastern Pakistan. Karachi is in Sindh Province. His mission was merely to quell a local rebellion, but in conquering the entire province, he exceeded his orders by quite a margin.

So Napier sent a message to his commanding officers, containing a single word in Latin: peccavi. It means... "I have sinned."

Guffaws rang out in Whitehall for decades afterwards.

Napier is credited with helping to stamp out the practice of Sati in what would become modern-day Pakistan, wherein a recently-widowed woman would be burned to death atop her husband's funeral pyre. And he famously said, neglecting to pun, but one hopes with some tongue in cheek (perhaps not):
so perverse is mankind that every nationality prefers to be misgoverned by its own people than to be well ruled by another...