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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.)
quote:
[W]ith technology that always seems to arrive like a deus ex machina to solve any problem, it becomes easy to believe that life is perfectible.
-- Stephanie Gutmann, The Kinder, Gentler Military

and Molly Haskel, writing about her husband's driving (excerpted):
These are accidents, the responsibility for which is quite plainly his, but which he must dramatize by invoking a deus ex machina to exonerate the dummy in the machine.
-- Molly Haskel, New York Times Magazine, September 24, 1989
 
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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! big grin

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!
 
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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)
quote:
George Will, commenting (Washington Post, January 23, 1992) on the proposed auction sale of a three-hole outhouse seat bearing paintwork said to be that of artists Willem de Kooning and Jackson Pollock:

The New York Times, speaking ex cathedra, announces, "The seat is executed in a style of the two masters."
 
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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.
 
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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?"
quote:
Composer Alvin Singleton has often used music to make comments on the circumstannces of our troubled times. His lates work, "56 Blows (Quis Custodiet Custodes?"), is his response to the Rodney King beating and the initial acquittals of Los Angeles police officers charged in the assaust.
--Lesly Valdes, Philadelphia Inquirer, Jan. 15, 1994

It was the real Cardinal Wolsey who said, "Put not your trust in princes", and I would say to your Lordships, "Put not your trust in appointments commissions". As my dear mother would have said, "Who are these people?" In language which all your Lordships will be familiar with, "Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?" I will not insult your Lordships by translating it.
--Lord St John of Fawsley, in Parliament, 7 Mar 2000
 
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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."
quote:
For a man who considers himself the vox populi, Mr. Gingrich was slow to fathom public sentiment toward PBS. He started out assuming that a routine incitement of class resentment would carry the day.
-- Editorial by "TRB" in New Republic, as reprinted in the Baltimore Sun, Feb. 3, 1995
 
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Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

What a wonderful phrase.....and so appropriate.
 
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Experts have
Their expert fun
Ex cathedra,
Telling one
Just how nothing
Can be done.
--Piet Hein
 
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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".
quote:
The White House statement reveals a sophisticated grasp of a principle of damage control that is indispensible to anyone taking a side trip from the path of righteousness. When caught in flagrante delicto, a wily transgressor always apologizes fulsomely when taking responsibility for a documentable lesser offense.
Mary Alice Daniels, Kansas City Star, July 10, 1996
 
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rara avis - a rare or unique person or thing
[Latin for 'rare bird'; plural 'rara avises' or 'rarae aves']
quote:
One often reads about the art of conversation--how it’s dying or what’s needed to make it flourish, or how rare good ones are. But wouldn’t you agree that the infinitely more valuable rara avis, is a good listener?
-- Malcolm Forbes.

He was, after all, that rara avis, a Jewish Catholic priest with a wife and children.
--Jeremy Sams, "Lorenzo the Magnificent," Independent, May 16, 2000
 
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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.
 
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Sign in a pet shop over a cage of rabbits:

e pluribus pluribus.
 
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