Boring! Alice in Wonderland, Impersonal Verbs and Passive Infinitives / by Anthony Gibbins

The opening sentence of Alicia in Terra Mirabili reads Aliciam iam incipiebat plurimum taedere iuxta sororem suam in ripa sedere nec quidquam habere quod faceret. This was Clive Harcourt Carruthers’ 1964 translation of ‘Alice was beginning to get very tired of sitting by her sister on the bank, and of having nothing to do.’ A more literal translation of Aliciam taedere incipiebat would read ‘it began to tire/bore Alice’. taedere is an Impersonal Verb.

We have seen the impersonal verb placet (it pleases) numerous times now. placet is often written with a Noun in the Dative Case and an Infinitive Verb. Marcello ambulare placet. ‘It pleases Marcellus to walk.’ or ‘Marcellus likes to walk.’ In today’s page placet is modified by two adverbs, maxime (very much) and minus (less). taedet is often written with a Noun in the Accusative Case and an Infinitive Verb. Marcellum ambulare taedet. ‘It tires/bores Marcellus to walk.’ or ‘Marcellus is bored of walking.’

Finally, this page includes both an active and a passive infinitive. vexare can be understood as ‘to annoy’, whereas vexari means ‘to be annoyed’. Hence Piconi placet murem vexare (It pleases Pico to annoy the mouse.) but muri minus placet vexari (It pleases the mouse less to be annoyed).

It pleases Pico very much to annoy this mouse in-this-fashion (sic). It pleases the mouse less, however, to be annoyed. Indeed (quidem) it very much tires him to be annoyed.