Si bonus es, venias; si nequam, nequaquam.

From an exchange between Alexander Neckam/Nequam and the Abbot of St. Albans.  The general story goes that Alexander asked for a teaching charge at St. Albans, to which the abbot punned:

Si bonus es, venias; si nequam, nequaquam.

If you are a good man, you should come; if evil, by no means

Alexander is then said to have answered:

Si velis, veniam; sin autem, tu autem

If you wish, I shall come; if not, farewell.

(Alexander’s pun doesn’t translate well since the wit is rooted in recognizing ‘tu autem‘ as the beginning to the memento mori concluding line of medieval lectures – ‘tu autem Domine miserere nobis‘ – and hence a clever shorthand for farewell and fuck off.  )

But then I have seen reversals of this sequence – that Alexander, promised the position but tired of foot-dragging, had sent his ‘reply’ first – to which the Abbott then replied with his, which then becomes the source of Alexander’s nickname rather than a pun on it.


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