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.


The Amazon Kindle: an Ovidian allusion

 
Thursday, January 31, 2008, 09:12 - Books, dictionaries and texts, Latin Language, Poetry, Literature, Music, Reviews
Posted by Administrator
In case you haven't noticed, Amazon is really pushing their own somewhat proprietary eBook reader called Kindle. Generally, I tend to stay tuned to advances in digital text technologies. So far, I liked the Sony device better. But all that is completely beside the point. I just wanted to share my very first reaction to the actual name of this device. When I first heard of 'Kindle' my spontaneous associations were rather amusing.

In Amores i.12 Ovid talks about the wax tablets that he had previously sent to his girlfriend. Well, she sent them back with a message telling the poet that she will not be able to visit him today. Ovid's descent into love-induced sadness spawns a series of invectives directed to none other that the wretched tablets. The first words that come to Ovid's mind are these:

ite hinc, difficiles, funebria ligna, tabellae...

Basically, the poet calls his wax tables "funereal firewood". Naturally, a tablet-like device dubbed 'Kindle' immediately caused me to think of this line!

Later on, Ovid calls his tablets inutile lignum - useless firewood, and expresses a strong desire to throw his primitive 'Kindle' out on the cross-roads where it would get crushed by a passing wheel. He also curses the maker of the tablets... Anyway, I hope every owner of a 'Kindle' is less displeased with their purchase than Ovid was with his wax tablets.

By the way, since old-school philology often insists on students remembering where exactly a certain passage comes from, a good mnemonic clue for remembering the number of this poem in Amores would be to think of the Twelve Tables. Hence - Amores i.12.

Kindle: Amazon's New Wireless Reading Device
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Slogan - a battle cry

 
To me, 'slogan' is a funny word with an almost non-Indoeuropean ring to it. My thirst for etymological illumination brought me to the steps of the monument that is OED (Oxford English Dictionary):

ad. Gael. sluagh-ghairm, f. sluagh host + gairm cry, shout.

1. a. A war-cry or battle cry; spec. one of those formerly employed by Scottish Highlanders or Borderers, or by the native Irish, usually consisting of a personal surname or the name of a gathering-place.

b. transf. The distinctive note, phrase, cry, etc. of any person or body of persons.


So, it's Celtic... What I find particularly interesting is that both 'slogan' and 'motto' refer to something that originally was a battle-cry. The etymology of 'motto' may not be all that different. The post-Classical 'muttum' is taken by Lewis & Short to mean 'a mutter', 'a grunt'. Niermeyer gives for 'muctum', (muttum, mutum) the meanings 'grumbling', 'squeak', 'cry'. In essense, a 'muttum' is something that defied comprehension, which is what war cries are all about, I believe.

It is rather strange that 'slogan', it my opinion, is becoming more and more a term for a trademarked catch-phrase, even though the definition found in OED is not that dissimilar from the definition of 'motto' ( hence my Latin motto generator is just as easily a Latin slogan generator):

Originally: a word, sentence, or phrase attached to an impresa or emblematical design to explain or emphasize its significance. Later also: a short sentence or phrase inscribed on an object, expressing a reflection or sentiment considered appropriate to its purpose or destination; a maxim or saying adopted by a person, family, institution, etc., expressing a rule of conduct or philosophy of life.


I guess, the use of 'motto' is simply more widely spread, with more secondary meanings and derivatives. The OED article features a derivative adjective 'mottoless'. As I can gather from the examples, it is a bad quality. One ought to have a motto or a slogan!

Poetic license...

 
Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 13:23 - Fine Arts, Poetry, Literature, Music
Posted by Administrator
I fear that I am about to become very busy, so I am trying to spend the last days of freedom posting a few things, that I will otherwise neglect to share.

This little quatrain was discovered by me in Allusion and Intertext: Dynamics of Appropriation in Roman Poetry by Stephen Hinds. I think that these lines are absolutely beautiful. Many will, of course, disagree.

Statius wrote down the line, then scratched it out,
And scratched his head, and sat a while in doubt,
But wrote it down again a little later,
And said, 'Not bad, though, for a second-rater.'


(Louis MacKay)

Sundial mottos: Sic transit gloria mundi

 
Sic transit gloria mundi - Thus passes the glory of this world

I was not aware that there is a very specialized kind of mottos, namely the sundial mottos. I have located a book with a great deal of these phrases dedicated to time, its passing, and other, rather melancholic observations:

"The Book of Sun-dials", by Alfred Gatty and Eleanor Lloyd


Lumen me regit vos umbra - The light guides me, the shadow you

Non sine lumine - Not without light

Obrepit non intellecta senectus - Old age creeps on unawares

Quae lenta accedit quam velox praeterit hora - The hour that comes slowly, how swiftly doth it pass


More to come in due time :)

P.S. As promised:
Mottos for Sundials

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