Legal phrases and definitions

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.

Fireplace inscription

Wednesday, November 3, 2010, 02:13 - Legal Phrases and Expressions
Posted by Administrator

It appears that fireplaces, not unlike sundials were sometimes decorated with Latin inscriptions. This particular one reads IGNEM IN SINU NE ABSCONDAS. At least one source claims that this inscription can be found on many fireplaces. So far, I found no evidence of that.

How to make sure that a Latin phrase is correct?

Friday, October 8, 2010, 17:10 - Legal Phrases and Expressions, Popular Latin Phrases, Mottos, Slogans
Posted by Administrator
It's been demonstrated many times that when an average person aspires to have a Latin tattoo, an engraved ring or simply a clever motto they likely to have the desired Latin phrase badly mangled, often to the point of complete nonsense. I do my best to verify the spelling of all the phrases that appear on my site, but I would recommend that people check twice every tiny bit of Latin that they want to use for any purposes, no matter where it comes from. The good news is that this is not so difficult!

First of all, unless you are relying on someone who is trained in Latin translation, never use a phrase that, in your personal opinion, aptly renders a phrase in your own language (English, French, German etc.). Without proper knowledge of Latin it is often impossible to translate even a single word by simply looking it up in a dictionary, never mind an actual phrase. So, if you have something unique in mind, go to a translator. You will be glad you did. However, there is a universe of Latin phrases out there. You are free to pick out of many well-known quotes and mottos. The trick here is to be aware of misspellings and OCR errors. You really want to verify your selected quote by using at least two printed sources. I do not suggest that you buy a book of Latin adages and try to find your favorite Latin phrase there (although your money could not be better spent if you, in fact, do so). Google Books has numerous scanned published resources. Many of them come from the glorious times when not only the writers and editors knew Latin, but even typesetters and book-binding workers! All you need to do is carefully copy your Latin phrase into the buffer and then paste it within quotation marks (otherwise the search will be too broad) into Google Books's search field. Then open the actual scanned pages and verify that the phrase you are intending to use is indeed spelled the way you thought it was spelled. Oftentimes, you will get a nice translation as a bonus!

If the phrase you are tracking is fairly common, you can probably go to a collection of Latin quotes. Here is one such collection on Google Books:

Latin quotations, proverbs and phrases

Now, what if you are not finding the Latin phrases you were hoping to verify? It is quite possible that they have been misspelled. If so, identify a few words within a phrase and run a search on those words only (remember to use quotation marks). This will very likely bring up the Latin phrase in its correct form.

Tempus fugit

Tuesday, May 25, 2010, 19:18 - Legal Phrases and Expressions, Popular Latin Phrases, Mottos, Slogans
Posted by Administrator
Tempus fugit
Translation: Time flies

I already knew that Latin mottos were very common on sundials. As it turns out, clocks at one time also featured Latin phrases. Obviously, you can still custom engrave a quality mantle clock. But this particular masterpiece replicates Wedgwood's original designs from the 1880s and is already ornamented with a Tempus Fugit inscription. As for the price, it is unapproachable, alas!

By the way, the origin of the phrase probably can be found in a line from Viril's Georgics:

Set fugit interea, fugit inreparabile tempus,
singula dum capti circumvectamur amore.

(G. 3.284-5)

Fairclough translates beautifully: "But time meanwhile is flying, flying beyond recall, while we, charmed with love of our theme, linger around each detail!"

Casanova's mottos

Thursday, May 20, 2010, 13:38 - Legal Phrases and Expressions
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Gallica has made Giacomo Casanova's manuscripts available online. Namely, "Histoire de ma vie" ("History of my life"). Nothing extraordinary, of course, unless you intend to gain more knowledge about the man's personality studying his handwriting. It was interesting, however, to look into his use of Latin mottos and even a brief discussion of them in the book. For instance, this motto is used as an epigraph to the memoirs:

Nequiquam sapit qui sibi non sapit.
He knows in vain who does not draw profit from what he knows

Casonova ascribes this quote to Cicero. He must be quoting from his memory, because the exact quote is a bit different:

Qui ipse sibi sapiens prodesse non quit, nequiquam sapit.

Also, Cicero himself is quoting from Ennius's Medea.

In the book, Casanova also mentioned these two mottos:

Excitat auditor studium, laudataque virtus
crescit, et immensum gloria calcar habet.

Having an audience makes one try harder, virtue grows by praise, and fame is a powerful spur

This one is from Ovid's "Epistulae ex Ponto." Another commonsense motto is also among Casanova's favorites, but he says that it would offend the vast number of thos who, whenever anything goes wrong for them, say: "It is not my fault":

Nemo leditur nisi a seipso
Nobody suffers except by his own doing

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