One of the lesser known (and hard to find, being deliberately overgrown with ivy) landmarks of Yale University
, these words caused some embarassment
to the Yale authorities.
After employing medievalists, classical scholars, and egyptologists in an attempt to discover the source of this quotation, which is carved above one of the doors to the Hall of Graduate Studies, they discovered that it was a joke/hoax perpetrated by the building's architect, John Donald Tuttle.
In a letter of confession written in 1934, he explained that the Collegiate Gothic style repelled him. It is, he wrote "a type of architecture that had been designed expressly...to enable yeomen to pour molten lead through slots on their enemies below. As a propitiary gift to my gods...and to make them forget by appealing to their senses of humor, I carved the inscription over the door."
The quotation is from novelist Rafael Sabatini's Scaramouche, and the full quote, referring to the hero is "Born with the gift of laughter, and a sense that the world was mad, and that was his only patrimony."
When the administration learned that the line was from a mere contemporary adventure novelist, they immediately planted the ivy that covers it today. Some people, it seems, just can't take a joke.