The Corner

All Men by Nature Desire to Know, But Sometimes They Come Up Short

Cambridge “Fenland Polytechnic” University has made a rather boneheaded error. Emblazoned on the doors of a newly-built classics annex is the line from Aristotle’s Metaphysics: “All men by nature desire to know.” Except the word “nature” — “ΦYΣEI” in Greek — is misspelled, using an English letter “S” instead of a Greek sigma (Σ).

The error was first noted on the blog of the delightfully curmudgeonly Professor Mary Beard, who seems like a Tory from way back and makes sure to hammer the big-government idiocy surrounding the entire endeavor:

Professor Beard, 55, wrote: ‘Even the gods have shown their disapproval in their own inimitable way.

‘We decided to have some nice ancient writing across the offending doors (partly another health and safety requirement – you can’t have plain glass doors in case someone bumps into them – I kid you not).

‘One of the quotes chosen was that famous line by Aristotle about “all men by nature desiring to know”.

‘But look what happened to the S of “Phusei” (by nature)… an English “S” not a Greek “S”.’

Turning her ire to the doors themselves, she added: ‘To open them you have to press an electronic “open door” button – and they then sweep aside dramatically in front of you. Dramatically and slowly.

‘So, at busy times (like, on the hour when lectures are changing over), there is a mass of bodies trying to get into and out of the building, but needing to wait for the stately pace of the doors’ operation.

‘In any case, as soon as you push them open and then someone pushes from the other side, the doors take on a life of their own and come back and attack you.

‘And as if that wasn’t enough, they repeatedly stop working anyway.

‘This is disabled access legislation gone mad (or perhaps done on the cheap).

‘I can’t actually imagine that wheelchair users (not in truth that I have ever seen one taking advantage of these access arrangements) can be happy with this.’

I don’t know what kind of fly-by-night operation they are running over there at The Other Place, but this sort of thing would never happen at Oxford.

UPDATE: A reader points out something I did not even notice on first glance — an equally appalling error in the Daily Mail’s header:

Red faces at Cambridge University as Latin inscription on £1.3m building has wrong spelling

UPDATE II: The Mail has now fixed the header so its says “Greek” instead of “Latin.”

Daniel Foster — Daniel Foster is a former news editor of National Review Online.

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