Fish and lovers

I just saw an email advertising a “three-day flash sale,” but I misread it as a “three-day fish sale.”

Which led me, of course, to Ben Franklin’s saying about fish and guests; that turns out to derive from John Lyly’s 1578 book Euphues: The Anatomy of Wit, which includes the line “fish and guests in three days are stale.”

And a footnote in at least some editions of that book suggests that that line comes originally from Plautus. Turns out his play Asinaria (a.k.a. The One with the Asses, which sounds like the title of a Friends episode) includes the line “Quasi piscis itidem est amator lenae: nequam est nisi recens.” I suppose I ought to ask someone who knows Latin what that means, but instead I’ll give you Google Translate’s translation of it: “Lovers are like fish in the same way no good until recently.”

Hmm, I see that in some renditions, there’s a comma after that est. Google Translate does better if you include that comma: “In the same way as fish Lovers are no good unless fresh.”

And I suppose it’s worth quoting a bit more, from the Paul Nixon translation:

The lady that spares her lover spares herself too little. Lovers are the same as fish to us—no good unless they’re fresh. Your fresh ones are juicy and sweet; you can season them to taste in a stew, bake them, and turn them every way. Your fresh one wants to give you things, wants to be asked for something: in his case it all comes from a full cupboard, you see; and he has no idea what he's giving, what it costs him. This is his only thought: he wants to please, please his girl, please me, please the waiting-woman, please the men servants, please the maid servants, too: yes, the new lover makes up to my little dog, even, so that he may be glad to see him.

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