Wit: Voltaire and Frederick the Great

Frederick the Great




Voltaire and Frederick the Great were friends and conversed in French, as all European aristocrats did at the time. And they were witty.

One day, Frederick invited Voltaire to come join him at his castle, Sanssouci, in Potsdam, by writing the following note:

_p__   à   _ci__
venez        sans

Voltaire did not miss a beat and replied with his own note:

G      a

And they both began to look forward to their next meeting!


Voltaire immediately understood Frederick’s note to mean “venez souper à Sanssouci“–ie, come dine at Sanssouci. The word venez is “sous” (under) the letter p. The word sans is “sous” the word ci.

So he replied by saying J’ai grand appétit: Capital G = “Gé grand”; lower-case a = “a petit”.

18 thoughts on “Wit: Voltaire and Frederick the Great

  1. OMG, that’s funny! I wonder if Voltaire went so far as to LOL. I think I’m out of my depth, again. I’m going to go back to watching cat videos on youtube. (no, I’ve never texted, either). Sarcasm is not only a low form of humor, it is also a manifestation of one’s insecurity.

  2. I think Voltaire also said, in his reply


    Since he had grand appetit it would have to be à grand souper 🙂

    PS LOL in French is sometimes shown as “mdr” – mourir de rire, but I think most French speakers go for LOL these days…..

  3. So far no one has it right, or at least as I learned it in high school in Nebraska from a German exchange student named Gisele Budde. (Are you out there, Gisele?)

    The version first given here is too easy on the right side of the equation. The — I would guess — correct version of that side is (either):

    si çi

    100 making it bi-lingual…or. 100

    No charge for this
    Dick Cavett

  4. It came out wrong. Different from how I typed it. Perhaps the damage can be cured with:
    the top of the right side (the numerator?) should be EITHER ‘si’ or ‘çi’
    D. Cavett

  5. Maybe Frederick and Voltaire did variations on this. I got it years ago from my erudite, French speaking father-in-law as venez diner with ve above and di below ve with a large nose in front of both of them, followed by a ci over sans and below all that from Voltaire a large J followed by a small a for J’ai grand appetit.

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