Latin Quotes, Sayings, Tattoos, Phrases & Mottos

Most texts and materials on this site have to do with the Latin language, including its perception in popular culture: movies, tattoos, inscriptions, engravings, bits of ancient philosophy, online Latin resources and company names. There is also information about learning Latin and Greek: textbooks, dictionaries, DVDs and software that can be used in a homeschooling environment.


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Volvo - car company's name and Classical Latin.

 
As you can find out just about anywhere, 'volvo' means 'I roll' in Latin. It is not even precisely known what educated Swede came up with this name for the nascent car company. The funny thing is that this form is quite rare in Classical Latin. Even when it is used (just 20 times or so in the database that I searched) it appears in order to demonstrate some grammatical point. Priscianus is particularly fond of this form, as he is responsible for at least half a dozen of these occurrences. Add a few other grammarians (Cassiodorus, Charisius, Marius Victorinus and even Servius) and that's pretty much all we have for 'volvo' in Classical Latin!

To love and to cherish - David Beckham's tattoo

 
Ut Amem Et Foveam

Popularly translated as "So that I love and cherish" this line was clearly rendered into Latin by someone who hows his/her subjunctives. It is nice to know that even big time sports types understand the importance of employing educated Latinists when attempting to adorn their bodies with grayish letters. It is sad, however, that while in the past patrons used to commission great works of art and fine literature, today people of considerable wealth often reduce themselves to much less ambitious projects.

This post was, of course inspired by the "quod me nutrit" article. I am not a big fan of tattoos, face painting and toe rings. But if you gonna do it - do it right. Beckham did! Of course, most people, including celebrities, prefer to enrave such messages on their wedding rings...


Quid pro quo

 
Literally, "what for what", often used to convey the idea of an equal exchange. Originally quid pro quo probably simply referred to replacing something with something, often not without negative connotations. To my surprise, I could not find any classical examples of this expression. Even medieval sources were pretty much silent. I was expecting at least to see quid pro quo as a literary term.

One interesting poem by Hermann de Werden (Hermannus Werdinensis), however, contains this expression. It is used to describe a medicine replaced with something totally different by a dishonest doctor:

Hic verus medicus, quia non vendit dyatruphis,
Nec tibi quid pro quo decipiendo terit,
Set veram nardum confectam pneumate sancto,
Per quam peccatrix uncta Maria fuit.


This is a true physician who does not sell [..](having some trouble translating 'dyatruphis'),
and does not deceivingly rub you with something instead of something else,
but with a true nard-oil, prepared by the Holy Spirit,
with which Mary the sinner was anointed.

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Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori

 
What Wikipedia will not tell you...

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori
"It is sweet and honorable to die for (one's) country."
Odes (iii 2.13)

Horace gets too much credit for this line, it has clear overtones of an earlier Greek poem by Tyrtaeus:

τεθνάμεναι γὰρ καλὸν ἐνὶ προμάχοισι πεσόντα
ἄνδρ' ἀγαθὸν περὶ ἧι πατρίδι μαρνάμενον·
Fragment 10.1-2

Seriously, I am just testing Unicode in my blog :) But the Greek here means something like, "It is a beautiful thing when a good man falls and dies fighting for his country." It may be suggested, and often is, that it is a commonplace idea that someone's death for his country is a beautiful sight. In my opinion, only frequent repetition made this idea commonplace, because there is nothing beautiful about this. Even if one feels exceedingly militaristic a healthier approach has been sugegsted by General Patton: "No poor bastard ever won a war by dying for his country. He won it by making other bastards die for their country.

Basically, 'commonplace' does not always mean 'true'.

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