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November 26, 2009, 09:15
wordcrafter
More Latin
Just as our Latin Legalese theme was ending, I ran into still another Latin legal term in the daily press. Apparently the universe is giving us a sign that we need still more Latin. Who am I to disregard an omen?

mea culpa – an acknowledgement that one is at fault.
[Latin, "‘by my fault"]cui bono – [from Cicero; Latin for "who benefits?"] the principle that, to identify the unknown person who is responsibility for an act, likely suspects can be ascertained by ascertaining who has something to gain from it
November 27, 2009, 12:26
wordcrafter
terra incognita – [Latin, "unknown land"] unknown territory
[either literally (unknown land) or figuratively (a new or unexplored field of knowledge)]
November 28, 2009, 12:40
wordcrafter
We fear the unknown. Any terra incognita is by definition a perilous region. It is said the old mapmakers had a phrase to mark a region's danger.

hic sunt dracones – here be dragons

A pity that this phrase isn't used today. What a wonderful metaphor for the scary unknown, like the forest of the Wicked Witch of the West.

Interestingly, though it is said that old maps and globes used this phrase, only a single specimen has been found. Given that, how did this idea of "dragon territory", terra dracones, arise? Perhaps from maps now lost?

Your Wordcrafter may have uncovered another possibility In the Latin Vulgate bible, Psalm 148:7 reads, laudate Dominum de terra dracones et omnes abyssi. The phrase terra dracones is lost in the English translations: those I've checked break it apart by putting punctuation in the middle.¹ I'm no Latin scholar – far from it – but I wonder whether there's authority for such treatment. Can anyone advise?


¹ e.g., King James Bible: Praise the Lord from the earth: ye dragons and all deepes.

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November 28, 2009, 12:59
zmježd
hic sunt dracones – here be dragons

In the phrase here be dragons, the be is in the subjunctive. The Latin is in the indicative. No doubts: "Here are dragons."

The verse laudate Dominum de terra dracones et omnes abyssi would translate as Praise ye, O dragons and all things of the deep, the Lord from the earth. Terra is in the ablative as it is governed by de. Dracones is in the nominative or accusative plural, so it cannot be possessive: the land of the dragons would terra draconum. In Hebrew, dracones is תּנּין tannin.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
November 29, 2009, 00:30
KB
Ah, I'll have to take your word on the translation into Latin. For all my skills in the language, could say "found a snake in the mud".

Thing is, we've had generations of half-baked scholars like myself, translations made through any number of languages & copied from crabbed writing on one moldy scroll onto another over the years. And somewhere along the line, let loose into folk etymology.

Ah, and didn't the Romans only have the period for punctuation? Fair odds I recall that wrong, but do know Hebrew wasn't even big on vowels, or spaces between words.

Ancient source and modern usage might just differ a bit.

BTW, tannin is Hebrew for dragon? Neat! Here, I'd thought my old D&D character's name was just some random letters I tossed together. (Did like to cast lightning & fire spells, tho.) Big Grin

This message has been edited. Last edited by: KB,
November 29, 2009, 06:30
zmježd
Thing is, we've had generations of half-baked scholars like myself, translations made through any number of languages & copied from crabbed writing on one moldy scroll onto another over the years. And somewhere along the line, let loose into folk etymology.

Far enough, except in this case, as wordcrafter pointed out above, we have one example of hic sunt dracones extant, and that is on a 16th century globe.

and didn't the Romans only have the period for punctuation?

Apart from inscriptions, we have very little written Latin from the period in which it was spoken, roughly from the third century BCE until about the sixth century CE. The Romans used a punctuation sign called the interpunctum:

FORTES·FORTVNA·IVVAT

The period (UK English full stop) and the comma were both originally rhetorical terms referring to a sentence and a clause, respectively.

We do have a few examples of non-inscriptional Latin: e.g., some wooden tablets from Vindolanda on Hadrian's Wall in the UK, some miltary correspondence and a couple of muster rolls from Syria and environs. Almost all of our MSS of Roman literature are later (Medieval) copies.

Fair odds I recall that wrong, but do know Hebrew wasn't even big on vowels, or spaces between words.

Owing to the nature of Semitic languages, roots are usually triconsonantal, vowels were not written down, though early on the use of some consonants as indicators of vowels developed, the so-called matres lectionis: i.e., aleph was a glottal stop, but it doubled for a, yod was a /j/ but also /i/, and vov was /w/ but also /u/.

tannin is Hebrew for dragon?

It could mean 'dragon, serpent, sea monster, river monster; serpent, venomous snake'. Take your pick.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
November 29, 2009, 07:55
arnie
Latin, specifically the Latin of Catullus, has been in the news here in the employment tribunal case of a guy accused of trying to kill and humiliate a former employee. He texted the first line of one of Catullus's poems, XVI. ad Aurelium et Furium, which goes "Pedicabo ego uos et irrumabo".

Read more for yourself from one of the blogs published by The Grauniad.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
November 29, 2009, 08:55
zmježd
Too funny, arnie. I love when newspapers get all innocent about translating a two thousand year old line of poetry (well, maybe not poetry, because Catullus never uses rhyme). Latin had two verbs for blow-job depending on who was doing the sucking and who was get sucked: fello 'to suck, fellate' meant the agent of the verb was using his mouth, and irrumo meant the agent was being fellated. I have seen editions of Catullus and other poets where the "obscene" passages are translated into French. I do like the I'll stuff your gobs for irrumabo vos.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
November 29, 2009, 10:02
Proofreader
quote:
trying to kill and humiliate a former employee

I assume he did the latter before the former.


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
November 29, 2009, 12:06
wordcrafter
lapsus linguae – [Latin] a slip of the tongue
A less-known phrase is lapsus calami – [Latin] a slip of the pen

As noted yesterday, I'm no Latin scholar. Nonetheless But twice in the last few months I've bumped into a Latin pun while reading, and (and much to my embarrassment) guffawed so loudly that the library patrons gave me dirty looks.

Here's the first, from Sharpe's Trafalgar Bernard Cornwell. The characters, sailing on the open seas, are dining in the captain's cabin.More on this dinner in a future week.
November 30, 2009, 10:14
wordcrafter
sic semper tyrannis – thus always to tyrants
[usually used to mean "death to tyrants". Said to have been uttered by Brutus when he and others assassinated Julius Caesar. John Wilkes Booth shouted this phrase, while fleeing, seconds he fatally shot Abraham Lincoln.]

My second laughed-out-loud Latin pun concerns the Puritans of 1600s New England. Most societies practice contraception. But the Puritans were a contraception exception, with predictable consequences.[uxor = "wife". uxoribus = "wives" or "all wives" or "all our wives"?]
November 30, 2009, 10:29
zmježd
[uxor = "wife". uxoribus = "wives" or "all wives" or "all our wives"?]

Latin uxor is the nominative singular for 'wife'; uxoribus is the ablative plural of uxor, so it's 'with wives'. The phrase translates as "thus [it is] always with wives". Same for tyrannus 'tyrant', tyrannis 'with tyrants'.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
December 01, 2009, 12:46
wordcrafter
magnum opus – a large and important work, esp., a person’s most important work
[Latin, "great work". plural is magnum opuses or opera]

Here used with the ironic sense of wasting time and talent on trivia.
December 01, 2009, 16:59
goofy
Baldrick: Perhaps your book really isn't any good.

Edmund: Oh, codswallop! It's taken me seven years, and it's perfect. "Edmund: A Butler's Tale" -- a giant rollercoaster of a novel in four hundred sizzling chapters. A searing indictment of domestic servitude in the eighteenth century, with some hot gypsies thrown in. My magnum opus, Baldrick. Everybody has one novel in them, and this is mine.

Baldrick: And this is mine (takes a small piece of paper from the front of his trousers). My magnificent octopus.
December 02, 2009, 05:20
zmježd
Latin, "great work". plural is magnum opuses or opera

The Latin plural of magnum opus is magna opera (at least in the nominative and the accusative). Opus is one of the few Greco-Latin words that gives wannabe pedants a tough time in English. In their snooty attempts to not use a simple English plural form, they often times come up with grammatical absurdities in inflecting the word. for example, opus is oftentimes pluralized as opii, which could only really be the genitive singular of opium, virus as virii (!), ignoramus as ignorami (it's not even a noun in Latin, it's a verb and it's already in the plural number (i.e., first person plural indicative active), etc. I'm not saying these bizarre forms are wrong! Just that to somebody who knows Latin they are terribly amusing, and just a bit sad.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.