This week we'll look at some latin phrases in our language.
deus ex machina (literally "a god from a machine") - an agent who appears unexpectedly to solve an apparently insoluble difficulty
(in ancient Greek and Roman drama, a god introduced by means of a crane to unravel and resolve the plot. Euripides particularly used this device.)
Oh--what a perfectly lovely phrase to use when my computer goes haywire and that wonderful guy from information technology comes to save the day!
I love this theme, wordcrafter. A Latin phrase that reminds me of a very terrible college administrator:
Oderint dum metuant (Atreus)
Let them hate me provided they fear me
The phrase should appear on her door!
ex cathedra – spoken with authority; may be used ironically to describe dogmatic, self-certain statements. (literally "from the chair; in Roman Catholic doctrine, refers to the Pope speaking with infallibility)
I've often wondered if - when they chose the name -Status Quo realised that forty years on they would still be churning out the same four chords in the same order. Never has a band chosen a more apt name.
Purgamentum init, exit purgamentum
Read all about my travels around the world here.
During 2002 we learned of Arthur Andersen's "accounting" of Enron; established a Department of "Homeland Security"; saw Saddam Hussein elected by literally a 100% vote; and found that the bishops of Boston had covered up a scandal of pedophile priests. Here is a maxim it may be well to consider as the new year starts.
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes? - Who will guard the guards themelves?
It is relevant to ask, whenever anyyone is set in a position of watchful authority over others, "Who will keep them on the straight and narrow?"
vox populi – voice of the people. Short for vox populi vox Dei, "the voice of the people is the voice of God", meaning that popular opinion of ordinary people reveals God's will, and should be obeyed. The full version first appeared in a letter to Charlemagne, from his adviser Alcuin.
Most often used in political contexts. Often used negatively, in the sense that the popular voice may in fact be an unwise lowest-common denominator, but nonetheless may be as irresistible as the voice of god. As William Tecumseh Sherman (U.S. Civil War General) wrote in a letter to his wife: "Vox populi, vox humbug."
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?
What a wonderful phrase.....and so appropriate.
Their expert fun
Just how nothing
Can be done.
in flagrante delicto - caught red-handed, in the act of committing a misdeed. (also, caught in the midst of sex). Frequently applied to embarrassing but non-criminal situations. Latin for "while the crime is blazing".
rara avis - a rare or unique person or thing
[Latin for 'rare bird'; plural 'rara avises' or 'rarae aves']
e pluribus unum - from many, one.
This, the official motto of the United States of America, is mentioned here because of the interesting bathos of its prosaic source.
It comes from Virgil's early poem 'Moretum', which is essentially a recipe for making a salad. As part of the preparation the protagonist mashes garlic and herbs together until the many colors have blended into one: "color est e pluribus usus."
I cannot say whether our founding fathers took this from Virgil, or from a previous borrowing. For example, each year when Gentleman's Magazine (London, 1731-1922) collected monthly issues into a single volume, it did so under the legend e pluribus usum.
Sign in a pet shop over a cage of rabbits:
e pluribus pluribus.