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.

Sepulchral rings

Monday, February 4, 2008, 14:02 - Fine Arts, Unsolved Mysteries and Myths
Posted by Administrator
F. M. Marshall makes this observation about this specific type of ancient rings in his Catalogue of the Finger Rings, Greek, Etruscan, and Roman:

Several of these rings are so flimsy that they can scarcely have been intended for the use of the living.

A few days ago I was looking at some lots of "Roman and Medieval" rings and it was precisely their "flimsy" condition that surprised me. Marshall's words put everything in its place. Indeed, it is safe to assume that a good deal of antique and vintage items that show up on eBay are the loot of European gravediggers.

A pretty dumb joke, if you ask me.

Friday, February 1, 2008, 17:09 - Jokes and anecdotes, Popular Latin Phrases, Mottos, Slogans
Posted by Administrator
Then again, I am the one who came up with it:

How does one call a very ugly motto? A Quasi Motto!

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!

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