We know what trembles in the scales,
What has to be accomplished.
The hour for courage. If all else fails,
With courage we are not unfurnished.
What though the dead be crowded, each to each,
What though our houses be destroyed? –
We will preserve you, Russian speech,
Keep you alive, great Russian word.
We will pass you to our sons and heirs
Free and clean, and they in turn to theirs,
And so forever.
by Анна Ахматова (Anna Akhmatova)
(23 February 1942)
from Седьмая книга (The Seventh Book)
translation by D. M. Thomas
You know the type. You are having a conversation and they come along with the express intent of one upping anyone else in the conversation.
They’ve been there and done more than you. No matter how much you did they had done that little bit extra which was beyond you or you had been ignorant of at the time. Been there, done that, got the t-shirt is their mantra. They thought nothing of it, as if it were a stroll in the park, and had totally forgotten about it until you mentioned it just now. It was that mundane an event to them though it was something you had felt achievement in until a moment ago.
But why do they do this? Where did this habit come from?
At least in Britain, and places later influenced by it, we have the traditions of the Celtic culture to blame. Warriors would take part in boasting contests while sharing a drink. You would make as big a boast as you could with the aim of outdoing all the others’ claims in order to gain prestige. Much of the entertainment came from how ridiculous and unachievable some of these claimed would get. But you could never call someone a liar as that was completely inappropriate during this communal event. As long as you could back up your boast e.g. I killed 20 Romans then it was okay and if you died in the effort of doing this then it was considered an honourable death and no one would dare call such a brave man a liar or fool as he had led, what for them, was a good warrior life (plus you were going to Annwn/the otherworld which was like the Norse Valhalla but more peaceful). If however you lived and were proven wrong in your claims then you were ripe to be humiliated. Admittedly there is more to it but that is the basic origin of it and it should be remembered that this was part of the traditions and culture of the Celts and though not as easily recognised as things like ‘the green man’ or the Eisteddfod it is part of the heritage of Celtic life which remained ingrained in the later Christianised Britons.
So how does this tradition of boasting continued into modern life? The most obvious example can be seen in the ‘Four Yorkshire Men’ sketch by Monty Python showing how this tradition of boasting parties where you one up your contemporaries is still well and alive in the modern era.
So when you encounter someone ‘+1ing’ your conversation just remember it might be part of their cultural heritage!
(They are still being incredibly rude though…)