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May 2nd, 2007

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06:18 am - I hate you. Go away and leave us alone.
If there's one thing I hate about knowing Latin is the fact that so many people who DON'T know Latin (and it's almost always Latin) seem to want to adorn their skin with it - as if Latin has some sort of mystical or historical or semantic staying power. I blame fraternity/sorority mottos, universites, and secret societies. And Harry Potter. On occasion, in latin, someone will post and ask for an English-Latin translation of some adolescent maxim they created.

Sometimes, they'll say "I want to translate (dumb maxim that I'll regret in three years) into Latin. How do I do that?" This is annoying as their deft English grammar rarely coincides with Latin grammatical constructions. Or worse, their *koff* nuanced, clever ambiguity does not square with the Latin meaning they seek.

Then you get losers like this one:


Stop. Stop right there. You didn't use a capital "h" and you expect us to help you with Latin? Fuck off. Learn English syntax and come back when you complete fourth grade.

i know absolutely nothing about latin.

Indeed, you do not. Nor do you know anything about the capitalization of proper nouns. What did I say earlier? At least you admit your ignorance. However, you have not confessed your ignorance regarding what sadly appears to be your native tongue.

however, i have a deep respect for it and other classical languages as i'm an undergrad science student. "hydrophobic" and "plumbum" and other such words, ya know?

Um. Word... Yo. We appreciate the respect that you have for Latin and "other classical languages". I guess you're smarter than your syntax reveals. Come! Bow at our altar! Give us offerings of chocolate and money! Yes, "hydrophobic" is a word from Greek, to which I assume you allude when you say "other classical languages". My ancient Hebrew is a bit shaky these days. Please forgive me. You have obviously paid attention in your sophomore science class in high school. It seems that you also have memorized at least one element from the periodic table. Good for you! You will make an excellent scientist! I will think of you often while I am reading this biography of Robert Oppenheimer on my bedside table.

so, all i need to know is this:

you need to know? Good gracious! I'm pleased to see that your interest in one of the great linguistic and cultural foundations of the Western World is so efficient! You know exactly what you want. You're a blogger of action. Don't let context get in the way! Let's get down to brass tacks. Whadyaneed, friend?

is "Nemo nisi mors" reasonably translated to "Nobody but death"?

So you do know how to use the shift key! There is promise for you yet! Ah, it's 5:00 in the morning as I am typing this, but I am certainly awake now that I have heard your fingernails on my linguistic chalkboard. Truth be told, I have no fucking idea what you mean in this sentence. You use a personal pronoun and then pair it with an impersonal noun. Do you mean "Death" as some sort of god? Already you have confused me. This is like saying "Anyone but bush". It makes no sense. Also, regarding your English, "Nobody but" (and I assume you mean "except") "death"... what? Is there a verb involved? Are you going to tease the readers of your tattoo? Because everyone will certainly be baffled by your brevity, the soul of wit.

I assume "mors" is death from my limited french knowledge,

Indeed! "french" does receive many words from "latin" as it is a "romance" language. "Limited"? Do tell. And if you grow up to be a big scientist, you'll learn the super secret meaning of rigor mortis.

but all this conjugating and such is beyond me.

I know I'm exhausted from all this conjugating. You haven't even used a fucking verb yet! And such.

It's not even called that in Latin, is it? There's some other fancy word.

"Fancy"? I thought people got tattoos in Latin because that would be "fancy" enough, per se! Are you going to use that nifty "gothic" font like on that Sublime album?  The one with all the extraneous lines and curves? It's so fifteenth century, yes? I'm sure that's why Beckham got his "fancy" Latin tattoo, genius that he is.  What? Mors isn't good enough for you? How would you know the difference? I could tell you that the word is "irrumator" and you wouldn't know the difference! You don't even know what you're saying in English and you want to make it sound better in Latin? And embarrass us all?

Anyway, before I potentially put it on my body forever, I'd like to check.

Wise, brave soul. If I were you, I'd utilize that "scientific method" all the kids are talking about these days. Check and check again!

I mean it in the sense that...

Oh, good! Thank you. Now you tell us what you mean - at the end, after we have lost any interest and have passed on to the next exciting post on our friends list.

nobody but death will stop me/defeat me/etc etc.

A verb! My kingdom for a verb! Gods be praised! But what verb do you want? You're going to get your pithy maxim etched into your skin and you don't seem to be too concerned which verb it is. "Stop", "defeat". Who cares?!!! So long as it is all good and latiny!

And I see that you have learned the useful "etc" to imply that we all understand the rest of your unstated desire for a verb. We, too, desire that verb. Until then, we cannot help you.


There's more?!!!

"Nam et ipsa scientia potestas es" as "Knowledge is power"

What the fuck did you just write? You can't even copy your Latin correctly. That makes no sense, scientist. I ask you for a verb and you fuck another one up. What did I say about the scientific method?

Is it correct?

Brevity is the soul of wit. No.

Is there a potentially shorter way to say it and still get the point across?

You really want to reinvent the wheel, don't you? Francis Bacon, who invented this "scientific method" I keep emploring you to use, said it best and said it first. Here's the more succinct version: Scientia potentia est. And he said it Latin, once the language of syinsss.


Please. No. You've done enough damage. Have you considered majoring in accounting? I'm sure you'd make a fine actuary.

are there any sort of rules in Latin about capitalizing/not capitializing?

Your first real question of merit! Huzzah!

i'm most likely going to get everything in lowercase,

O RLY? How edgy, e.e. cummings.

is this some big taboo or something?

Yes. When the Vestal Virgins would do it, the Romans would bury them alive. Let that be a lesson to you. Something tells me you're still a virgin and will remain one for a long long time.

 i just don't wanna end up with a picture here with you guys giggling at how badly translated my tattoo is, lol.

"LOL", indeed.

(8 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:May 2nd, 2007 12:25 pm (UTC)
Hahaha. Well put. I think the first line from Catallus' Carmen 16 is appropriate here for such aspiring literati: "Paedicabo ego vos et irrumabo". Si vales, valeo.
Date:May 2nd, 2007 02:16 pm (UTC)
That's pretty horrible. But I don't think nauseatingly mistranslated Latin tattoos are anywhere near as as ubiquitous as blundered Kanji tattoos. Most Kanji tattoos tend to end up botched - If the meaning isn't completely wrong, or the characters invented altogether then at least the brushstroke ordering tend to be misordered. The connotations of words are also wildly off and the meanings are sometimes unclear without contextualization. Contextualizing means using verbs, though, and we know how loathe people are to do that. I think the lesson here is that if you can't take the time to learn even the most basic level of a language, you really shouldn't make things worse by paying to mark yourself with a big scarlet letter of ignorance. Interestingly, I've actually seen a tattoo reading 馬鹿外人 or "stupid foreigner".

I share your pain.
[User Picture]
Date:May 2nd, 2007 04:18 pm (UTC)
So will you hate me if I get a "Sapere Aude!" tattoo. Cos you know it's all about Kant, and he just happened to use Latin to say what he meant in that particular instance (also, it's a lot less letters than "have the courage to use your own understanding" and I'm still a bit scared of this whole tattoo idea).

Irrumator is a wonderful Latin word. baglieg put it on badges last year.
[User Picture]
Date:May 2nd, 2007 06:17 pm (UTC)
You can get the tattoo. I give you that imprimatur. "Sapere Aude" is a well-established and well-treasured use of philosophical Latin. And Kant said it. So it's gospel - categorically imperatively so. ;)

That's an awesome badge. I may need to make some of my own...
[User Picture]
Date:May 2nd, 2007 05:43 pm (UTC)

he he he he

you said irrumator.

this was a good read for breakfast.

i don't capitalize unless i am writing in a professional scenario. does this make me half loser?
[User Picture]
Date:May 2nd, 2007 06:19 pm (UTC)

Re: he he he he

Not at all! Because you already know Latin and you wouldn't have bothered with such a request in the first place. My problem is that my print handwriting is so infected with Greek that if the Roman letter has any relation to its Greek uncle, it becomes quite indecipherable. My "s"'s at the end of words ALWAYS look like terminal sigmas.
[User Picture]
Date:December 2nd, 2007 11:07 am (UTC)

I just love incompetence, don't you?
[User Picture]
Date:January 10th, 2008 08:21 pm (UTC)

I did linguistics and am very, very bored with people asking me how many languages I can speak; even then, I don't feel the need for tattooing a language I do not speak onto my body. Kanji is bad enough.

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