O captain, fire of my loins!
November 14, 2013 7:04 PM   Subscribe

What are some flattering address from classic literature? My two examples (and the extent of my list) are Walt Whitman's "O Captain! My captain!" and "...light of my life, fire of my loins!" from Lolita. Both are very fun things to call Mr. Grandysaur. BUT I WANT MORE. I'm looking for grandiose, recognizable, turns of phrase that I can use to address those that are worthy. The more ridiculous the better.
posted by Grandysaur to Writing & Language (39 answers total) 56 users marked this as a favorite
...just a word of caution: not everyone will be down for being addressed with the epithet a pedophile used for his victim.

I've always been fond of "Great High Lord! Mighty High Lord!" from Terry Brooks' Magic Kingdom series.
posted by spunweb at 7:19 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Homeric epithets might be good for that. "Hector, breaker of horses"? "Athena whose shield is thunder"?
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:21 PM on November 14, 2013 [8 favorites]

Or does having a name in there ruin it?
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 7:22 PM on November 14, 2013

I always enjoy praising my gentleman friend with made up strings like "a king among princes, a prince among kings" and similar expressions - bonus if the expression sounds grandiose but is kind of a slight or complete nonsense if you actually work out the logic.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:25 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: When he comes in, you can launch into "home is the hunter, home from the hills".
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:26 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Best answer: There's a bit from Game of Thrones that's good for this. On one hand, all the kids are doing it these days - and on the other, it's still fun to address your SO as "My sun and stars" or "Moon of my life."
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:27 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

"You are the light of my life and the joy of my existence."

And I'm sure many others in the Amelia Peabody series.
posted by madmethods at 7:28 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's always this, from Chaucer: "My faire bryd, my sweete cynamome"

Or from Ben jonson: "My fine Flitter-mouse, My Bird o’ the night."
posted by thisclickableme at 7:39 PM on November 14, 2013 [9 favorites]

Vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus (Let us live, my Lesbia, and let us love) opens Catullus 5.
posted by troika at 7:45 PM on November 14, 2013

"Slayer of giants, basher of trolls" (felli fjörnets goða flugstalla in Old Norse, according to Wikipedia) was the Scandinavian kenning for Thor.
posted by XMLicious at 7:52 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Oh, Judge Holden, gather me in your arms against your immense and terrible flesh."

Or is Blood Meridian not the McCarthy novel that's a love story? I can't remember.
posted by komara at 8:07 PM on November 14, 2013 [5 favorites]

Flower of Courtesy, Nutmeg of Consolation, Rose of Delight
posted by elizardbits at 8:25 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I recently read Spacehounds of IPC by EE Doc Smith and the two main characters, Stevens and Nadia, have an amazing number of weirdly endearing names for each other. The book is pretty good too.

Actually quite a bit of 'golden age' sci-fi has wonderful stuff like you want.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:38 PM on November 14, 2013

A Song of Ice and Fire is by no means a classic, but I always liked "my sun and stars" / "moon of my life".
posted by Phire at 8:44 PM on November 14, 2013

Someone already mentioned Game of Thrones, but I just wanted to highlight specifically how nice it might be to have your own pet name be:

Grandysaur the Unburnt, Breaker of Chains and Mother of Dragons!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 8:44 PM on November 14, 2013

Best answer: O My Beloved and O the Delight of my Eyes, from the Chronicles of Narnia

O my Best Beloved, from the Just So stories

when I want my husband to do me a favor that is particularly ridiculous or disgusting, I address him either "My Lord and my Master, my Husband and my King" or else "Light of my Life, Joy of my Heart, Beloved of my Womb." Either way he responds with "Oh, god, what is it this time?"
posted by KathrynT at 9:09 PM on November 14, 2013 [12 favorites]

The Song of Songs:

My beloved resembles a gazelle or a fawn of the hinds; behold, he is standing behind our wall, looking from the windows, peering from the lattices.
My beloved is white and ruddy, surrounded by myriads
posted by blob at 9:30 PM on November 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Best answer: Oh dude check it out it's a book on "Vocative constructions in the language of Shakespeare, with appendices that list (it looks like) all of the poetic terms of address like this which he uses.

Browsing through I'm especially fond of "my mate in empire" and "thou protector of this damned strumpet."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 9:39 PM on November 14, 2013 [11 favorites]

"Moon of my Delight who know'st no wane" from The Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam.
posted by XMLicious at 9:40 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

So, what's a guy like you doing in a nice place like this?
posted by islander at 10:03 PM on November 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

"What, has this thing appeared again tonight?" -- Hamlet, act 1, scene 1.
posted by pont at 10:30 PM on November 14, 2013 [3 favorites]

Robert Burns has some great ones - you can page through his poems to get serious ones, but these are less-serious ones -

To a Mouse (Wee, sleekit, cow'rin, tim'rous beastie)

Address to a haggis (Fair fa' your honest, sonsie face, Great chieftain o' the pudding-race!)
posted by LobsterMitten at 11:17 PM on November 14, 2013

"My dear Mr. Bennet" particularly in the style of Alison Steadman who played Mrs. Bennet in the BBC version of Pride & Prejudice.
posted by like_neon at 1:08 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Well, depending on your view of classic literature, I give you punk poet John Cooper Clarke's seminal poem, "Are you the business."

Sample line:
Did Noriega knock out coke
Did Bob Marley like the odd smoke
Was Jesus Christ a decent bloke
Are you the business
posted by MuffinMan at 1:10 AM on November 15, 2013 [10 favorites]

I love this thread!

I've been known to use 'magnate' and 'tycoon' on occasion as a reference to 'Summer Moonshine' by P G Wodehouse.

'Oh, I see. You should have used oil, chief.'
'I know I should have used oil. And how many times have I told you not to call me "chief"?'
'But I must employ some little term of respect on these occasions when you give me audience. Boss? Magnate? Do you like "magnate"? Or how about "tycoon"?'
posted by Ziggy500 at 3:42 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not classical, and not grandiose, but perhaps apropos in some moods is Stanley Kunitz's address to an old lover in "After the Last Dynasty": "Pet, spitfire, blue-eyed pony, I have a new note I want to pin to your door".
posted by drlith at 3:53 AM on November 15, 2013 [3 favorites]

But soft! What light though yonder window breaks? 'Tis the East, and *insert name here* is the Sun!
posted by h00py at 3:54 AM on November 15, 2013

If you have a dirty sense of humor, you'll find some good ones in James Joyce's letters to Nora Barnacle.

(Warning: text is sooooooo NSFW. Really truly.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 5:29 AM on November 15, 2013

You got me into your house. You give me a drink. You... you put on music. Mrs Robinson, are trying to seduce me?
posted by Flood at 6:28 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

"My North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest

Er... provided you can get past the fact that this comes from a eulogy.
posted by MsMolly at 8:42 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Goodnight, you princes of Maine, you kings of New England (I think it's fair to adjust for geography and number of princes.)
posted by gladly at 8:51 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

Song of Solomon has a line*, "my love, my dove, my undefiled," which I have altered for my husband into, "my love, my dove, my undefined."

*That I originally found used in Joseph Heller's novel, God Knows. Oy, what a great book!
posted by blurker at 8:53 AM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

I'm fond of the epithet flung around in Don Quixote: Never-sufficiently-praised.
posted by Aubergine at 10:34 AM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

On the somewhat less flattering side, my aunt and I are both fond of saying, "Am I invisible? Am I inaudible? Do I merely festoon the room with my presence?" from The Lady's Not For Burning by Christopher Fry.
posted by newrambler at 2:40 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

...I know that actually it's a play that was written by Christopher Fry, but I read that as an indication that under no circumstances should Christopher Fry be allowed to burn the lady.
posted by Vibrissa at 3:49 PM on November 15, 2013 [1 favorite]

There are some dazzling honorifics in this letter from Sultan Ahmet to the King of Poland--
From: Sultan Akhmet Khan

To: the King of Poland


Sultan Akhmet Khan, the Most Illustrious, son of the Great Emperor, Son of the Highest God, Emperor of the Turks, Greeks, Babylonians, Macedonians, Sarmatians, King of Upper and Lower Egypt, Alexandria, India, and also lord and monarch of all the peoples and inhabitants of the earth, sovereign and illustrious son of Muhammad, protector and defender of the cities of Persia and the Earthly Paradise, protector and defender of the tomb of the Earthly God, King of Kings, Emperor of Emperors, Prince of Princes, lord of all the earthly gods and all who will never be seen on this earth, lord of the Tree of Life and the Holy City of God, as well as the cities of the Red Sea, Lord and Inheritor of all Inheritors, sends greetings to you the King of Poland.

You have taken counsel with your petty kings and princes, and have opposed us, the powerful and invincible Emperor, whom no man on earth has defeated, and have heeded ill-considered and reckless counsel to do evil, and not fearing, together with these petty kings, princes, and nobles, to do any evil, even though up to now you have only spoken to us of friendship, peace, and alliance, now you have turned and declared war upon us. Therefore, I will invade your country, since you do not wish to keep the peace, and am confident of defeating you. I shall attack your possessions with my followers, plundering, looting, killing, burning, and devastating at will.

Be aware of the power I can raise within my dominions, which I have held from the beginning of the world, and will hold until its end. With this power I shall subject you to my way, O petty kings, and I shall establish my throne in Cracow, and you shall see it with your very eyes. And do not count on living in peace with us, for I do not fear your subjects, and I shall leave my memorial in your kingdom, that I can promise you.

In perpetual memory of which I send you a naked bloody sword, a bloody spear, and a bloody bullet. I shall so trample your land with all my horses and camels that it will be known and famed throughout the world and among all the peoples of the earth. As God has avenged himself and vented His wrath upon those who swear oaths and perfidiously break them, so shall I, the earthly God and equal of God himself, also punish and prove your faith, and shall so execute judgment before I write again. All this you can deliberate upon and comprehend at your convenience. If you do not comprehend, then you will feel it.


The All-Illustrious Emperor.”
and the subject of a famous painting The Zaporozhian Cossacks write a letter to the Sultan of Turkey
Sultan Mahmud IV to the Zaporozhian Cossacks:
As the Sultan; son of Muhammad; brother of the sun and moon; slave and viceroy of God; ruler of the kingdoms of Macedonia, Babylon, Jerusalem, Upper and Lower Egypt; emperor of emperors; sovereign of sovereigns; extraordinary knight, never defeated; steadfast guardian of the tomb of Jesus Christ; trustee chosen by God Himself; the hope and comfort of Muslims; confounder and great defender of Christians -- I command you, the Zaporogian Cossacks, to submit to me voluntarily and without any resistance, and to desist from troubling me with your attacks.
--Turkish Sultan Mahmud IV

The reply was a stream of invective and vulgar rhymes, parodying the Sultan's titles:

Zaporozhian Cossacks to the Turkish Sultan!
O sultan, Turkish devil and damned devil's kith and kin, secretary to Lucifer himself. What the devil kind of knight are you, that can't slay a hedgehog with your naked arse? The devil excretes, and your army eats. You will not, you son of a bitch, make subjects of Christian sons; we've no fear of your army, by land and by sea we will battle with thee, fuck your mother.
You Babylonian scullion, Macedonian wheelwright, brewer of Jerusalem, goat-fucker of Alexandria, swineherd of Greater and Lesser Egypt, pig of Armenia, Podolian thief, catamite of Tartary, hangman of Kamyanets, and fool of all the world and underworld, an idiot before God, grandson of the Serpent, and the crick in our dick. Pig's snout, mare's arse, slaughterhouse cur, unchristened brow, screw your own mother!
So the Zaporozhians declare, you lowlife. You won't even be herding Christian pigs. Now we'll conclude, for we don't know the date and don't own a calendar; the moon's in the sky, the year with the Lord, the day's the same over here as it is over there; for this kiss our arse!
Koshovyi Otaman Ivan Sirko, with the whole Zaporozhian Host.
posted by ohshenandoah at 5:10 PM on November 15, 2013 [5 favorites]

"for you are call'd plain Kate,
And bonny Kate and sometimes Kate the curst;
But Kate, the prettiest Kate in Christendom
Kate of Kate Hall, my super-dainty Kate,
For dainties are all Kates, and therefore, Kate
Take this of me, Kate of my consolation;"

-Taming of the Shrew
posted by chrisulonic at 5:29 PM on November 15, 2013 [2 favorites]

"Loveliness unfathomable!"

Full quote: "Loveliness unfathomable, as ever lover saw in his young bride's eyes!" -- Starbuck

Moby Dick, Chapter 114, in which Ahab, Starbuck and Stubb address the sea.
posted by beanie at 8:44 PM on November 15, 2013

As indicated above, the Song of Solomon should give you some good stuff to work with.
posted by rjs at 12:26 AM on November 16, 2013

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