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.

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

Love conquers all -- The imporatance of learning Latin

Tuesday, January 29, 2008, 10:34 - Learn Latin Language, Latin Translation, Popular Latin Phrases, Mottos, Slogans
Posted by Administrator
Omnia vincit amor - Love conquers all

In one of the last episodes of the Showtime Original Series 'The Tudors'(Season One) there is a following exchange between, if I recall correctly, Henry VIII and his courtier (I only convey the part that pertains to this discussion):

C. Omnia vincit amor!
H. Ah, yes! Everybody is won by love!

I would not vouchsafe for the precision of the quote, but the gist is there. What's happening? Henry VIII clearly misinterprets the first half of Virgil's famous line from Eclogue 10:

Omnia vincit Amor: et nos cedamus Amori.

Yes, 'Love conquers all' is the correct translation. However, this 'all' is Neuter. Thus the meaning of the phrase is more philosophical: 'Love conquers all things, everything in existence'. Henry interprets it in a very trite sense: 'All people are subject to love'. Sure, he was a real expert in matters of love, but I won't believe that he was not a good enough Latinist to see a very simple grammatical point.

The moral is, it is ok to quote translations of Latin phrases. But one should not modify these translations, because the resulting paraphrase can become untrue to the original!

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