(u3a) 18 Oct.: “Carpe Diem”


A Movie Speech: ‘Carpe Diem’ from Dead Poets Society( 1989)

Dead Poets Society (L’attimo fuggente):  Drama featuring Robin Williams  who plays  an unconventional English teacher (John Keating), who disdains  traditional teaching methods and text books.

Keating blows into the oppressive halls of an elite Vermont boys’ academy like a breath of fresh air, shocking colleagues and inspiring  his students to  love poetry and to overcome their reluctance to make changes in their lives.  But his impact has far-reaching effects that he never intended.

In this scene, he tries  to energise his students through poetry. He  asks Pitts, a student of the class to read a poem. Pitts begins reading the poem: “To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time”  (written by Robert Herrick in the 17th century).

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

Old Time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today

To-morrow will be dying.

 Then Keating gives this memorable and inspiring short lecture:

Thank you Mr. Pitts. Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. The Latin term for that sentiment is Carpe Diem. Now who knows what that means? Carpe Diem. That’s ‘Seize the day.’ —- Gather ye rosebuds while ye may. Why does the writer use these lines? —-  Because we are food for the worms lads. Because believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold, and die.

Now I would like you to step forward over here and peruse some of the faces from the past. You have walked past them many times. I don’t think you’ve really looked at them. They’re not very different from you, are they? Same haircuts. Full of hormones, just like you. Invincible, just like you feel. The world is their oyster. They believe they’re destined for great things, just like many of you. Their eyes are full of hope just like you. Did they wait until it was too late to make from their lives even one iota of what they were capable? Because you see, gentlemen, these boys are now fertilising daffodils. But if you listen real close, you can hear them whisper their legacy to you. Go on, Lean in. Listen… Do you hear it? (whispers) Carpe. (whispers again) Cape. Carpe Diem. Seize the day boys, make your lives extraordinary.”

Carpe diem is an aphorism, i.e.  a short saying , which expresses  a general truth, principle, or smart observation.

A saying  sometimes has a meaning that is different from the simple meanings  of the words it contains,  as in the case of idioms or some proverbs.


IDIOMS: a manner of speaking that is natural to native speakers of a language

Every language has its own collection of wise sayings. They offer advice about how to live and also transfer some underlying ideas, principles and values of a given culture or society. These sayings are called “idioms” – or proverbs if they are longer –  have  a “figurative meaning” . There are two features that identify an idiom: firstly, we cannot deduce its  meaning from the individual words; and secondly, both its grammar and its vocabulary are fixed, and if we change them we lose the meaning of the idiom. Many of them originated as quotations from well-known writers. It is estimated that there are at least twenty-five thousand idiomatic expressions in the English language

For example, a  recurrent English idiom is “Bob’s your uncle!”. Like many idioms, it is completely absurd if you take it literally, which is why it is a very amusing expression. It simply means “and there you are!” or “et voilà!” in French to show that getting the result you want is easy. Most writers agree that it was first used in the 19th century, making a reference to a famous case of nepotism. The uncle Bob in question was a Conservative prime minister. His full name was Robert Arthur Talbot Gascoyne-Cecil, 3rd Marquis of Salisbury. When he was prime minister, Robert (Bob) Gascoyne-Cecil promoted his nephew to the post of Chief Secretary for Ireland, which surprised a lot of people because Balfour did not have a lot of experience. Today, the idiom is no longer  connected with the idea of nepotism, but it  simply refers to the idea of getting something easily.


English Idioms Related to School and Education


  • PUT / GET YOUR THINKING CAP ON: To engage your mind and think in a serious manner.
  • BACK TO BASICS: An approach that uses traditional ideas and methods which have been successful in the past.
  • AS EASY AS ABC: Something that is very simple or easy.
  • COPYCAT: Someone who copies another person’s work.
  • DROP OUT OF SCHOOL (phrasal verb) / DROPOUT (noun) :To stop attending school completely
  • LEARN (SOMETHING) BY HEART / OFF BY HEART :To memorise something so well, that you can say it from memory.
  • BOOKWORM :Someone who reads a lot, all the time.
  • SKIP CLASS: When someone plays truant and does not go to their lessons.
  • SCHOOL OF THOUGHT: A particular philosophy, or a way of thinking about something.
  • BRAINSTORM: To try to develop an idea or think of new ideas.
  • AN OLD HEAD ON YOUNG SHOULDERS: A child or young person who thinks and talks like an older person who has more life experience.
  • CALL THE ROLL / TAKE THE ROLL: To call the names of a group of people and expect them to respond to show they are present.
  • LEARN THE ROPES: To learn how to do a job properly.
  • LEARN ONE’S LESSON: To suffer a bad experience and know not to do it again.
  • TEACH SOMEONE A LESSON: To do something to someone in order to punish them
  • UNIVERSITY OF LIFE: The daily life and work where you learn more than you would by going to university.
  • HIT THE BOOKS: To begin to study hard.
  • HAVE ONE’S NOSE IN A BOOK: To be reading a book.
  • TEACHER’S PET: A teacher’s favourite student.



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s