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.


Meaning of "Sasha"

 
Friday, February 8, 2008, 05:06 - Etymology and word roots, Latin Words - Meanings and Definitions
Posted by Administrator
Speaking of meanings... There is one area of popular etymology where results have been absolutely horrifying and disturbing. I am taking about the etymology of proper names, most often featured on numerous 'baby names' sites. It is absolutely unbelievable what these people come up with. What's worse, that not only you will be likely to find erroneous etymologies and explanations for certain names - I once found a site that claimed to have the largest collection of boys' and girl's names in existence. What they actually did was collect data from online chats around the world and then presented people's nicknames and usernames as actual proper names. This process created a mishmash of names that were wrongly attributed as originating from languages that had nothing to do with them! Also, there were a lot of 'baby names' that were made-up nicknames, quite often obscene! No doubt, some of them were rather melodious and exotic sounding... So, I would advise everyone to at least stick with the names they have heard. But as far as interpretation goes, you should probably consult with printed books, although I have seen a good amount of errors in 'baby name books', as well.

Anyway, I got thinking about all this after I saw this entry on some big-time new baby naming website:

The boy's and girl's name Sasha \s(a)-sha\ is pronounced SAH-shah. It is of Russian origin. Short form of Alexander (Greek) "man's defender". The -sha ending may not be feminine in Russia, though it is in the US.

Yes, the true origin of this name is Greek. It should probably be taken to mean 'the defender of men'. And it is entirely incorrect that Sasha cannot be feminine in Russia. It is short for Alexandra, the female version of Alexander. More importantly, the article does not attempt to explain how Alexander and Sasha can be etymologically related. I should probably clarify this. 19th century Russian literature has some examples of another short version of Alexander - Aleksasha (the Russian suffix used here is probably cognate to the German diminutive suffix '-chen'). This is were 'Sasha' comes from! And, as if things were not complicated enough, 'Sasha', in its turn, produced yet another form: Shura. This one stems from a diminutive form of 'Sasha' - 'Sashura'.

Zodiac signs meanings

 
There is a little bit of Latin to be learned from the names of the Zodiac signs. More importantly, one should not always rely upon these names as a source of meaning for the corresponding words. This goes especially for Sagittarius, Capricord and Aquarius. The traditional translations of these names is more relevant to the depictions of these constellations, rather than to the Latin words and their meanings.

1. Aries (The Ram) - a ram, a battering ram
2. Taurus (The Bull) - a bull, ox
3. Gemini (The Twins) - plural of 'geminus' 'born at the same time', twin, double, similar
4. Cancer (The Crab) -a crab, the South (because this sign of the Zodiac is found at the time of the summer solstice), cancer
5. Leo (The Lion) - a lion
6. Virgo (The Virgin) - a maid, a virgin, a young woman or girl, something pure
7. Libra (The Scale) - a pair of scales, a measure, the Roman pound, balance
8. Scorpio (The Scorpion) - a scorpion
9. Sagittarius (The Centaur) - an archer, a bowman
10. Capricorn (The Sea-goat) - caper-cornu; cf. in Gr. aigokereus, having goat's horns
11. Aquarius (The Pitcher) - relating to water, a water carrier
12. Pisces (The Fish) - plural of 'piscis' 'fish'

Rebus

 
I should probably explain the etymology of the word rebus and then provide a better idea of why this site is called "In Rebus".

According to A Dictionary of English Etymology
by Hensleigh Wedgwood, John Christopher Atkinson:

Rebus. A riddle where the meaning is indicated by things (Lat. rebus} represented in pictures, the syllables forming the names of the things represented having to be grouped in a different manner. Thus the picture of a fool on his knees with a horn at his mouth is to be read in Fr. fol à genoux trompe (tromper, to blow a horn), but read in a different manner it gives "fol age nous trompe".—Cot. Rebuses in Heraldry are such coats as represent the name by things, as three castles for Castleton.

It's an old dictionary, but the information holds true. If I recall correctly, this use of the Latin Ablative of the word res ('thing', 'object', 'matter') dates back to the 16th century or thereabouts.

Conversely, "in rebus" refers to the medieval philosophical notion of universal ideas (universalia) being present in "things". My reasoning is that given this name this site can provide information on anything whatsoever. Which is not to say that at one point I will not make some kind of actual rebus or even a rebus generator.

Cicero and the etymology of 'syllabus'

 

Shortly after returning from exile in 58, Cicero sent a brief note to Atticus with the sole purpose of requesting his friend’s assistance in arranging his library. This letter (Att. 4.4), and a few others that followed it, became a source of some conjectures about the specifics of bookmaking in classical Rome and Greece, as well as the pertaining terminology. It is difficult to imagine a monograph or even an article on ancient libraries that omits this episode – quite rightly so, but nevertheless there are some elements of contemporaneous cultural context that should be considered in this connection.

The wording of Cicero’s request addressed to Atticus bears very strong references to the social order of the time. It may be noted how Marcus Tullius distances himself from the actual task of renovating his personal library. It was Tyrannio, a freedman, who was responsible for the arranging (dissignatio) of the surviving volumes (Cicero does not give us an impression of his own involvement in this process). Librariolus¸ the general term, used by Cicero for those employed by Atticus in his book publishing business, is a characteristically diminutive form of librarius, suitable for a slave and reminiscent of the contemptuous Graeculus. Atticus’ slaves are expected to perform their job under Tyrannio’s supervision, and Cicero once again does not imply his own possible involvement or his guiding role. This detachment, cultural reasons for which had been suggested above, may very well resonate in the final part of Cicero’s request: iisque imperes ut sumant membranulam ex qua indices fiant, quos vos Graeci, ut opinor, sittÚbaj appellatis. Through this circuitous tone Cicero either wants to create an impression that for him the knowledge of specific terminology is duly and understandably superfluous or he indeed has some doubts as to how one calls the little slips of parchment that were at times attached to papyrus rolls. Either way, Cicero is not worried about using a wrong Greek word, considering that he hardly lacked a specialist with whom he might have consulted (Tyrannio, for instance, certainly would have been of assistance). A Roman aristocrat simply could afford not to care much about the terminology of any given craft. It is ironic, that Cicero’s letters became the primary evidence for this particular Greek term, shrouded in orthographic uncertainty (s…lluboj or sittÚbai?).[1] Although a mere scribal error is likely responsible for the confusion, the varying spellings in Att. 4.4a , 4.5.3 and 4.8.2 may in fact ascend to Cicero’s manuscripts, with Cicero’s carelessness being the reason. The disregard for the social context may have contributed to the subsequent coining of the term syllabus in humanist Latin and some modern European languages. Cicero, a figure of great literary authority, was presumed to be a trustworthy witness for the Greek word not attested in other classical writers (at least not in the form found in the Medicean manuscript, which in 1470 was used for the editio prima). The word was suitably reinterpreted to denote any kind of a concise summary or list of subdivisions in a text. In the atmosphere of enthusiasm for the recent advances in book production, it only seemed proper that an author would be well versed in the terminology of the trade that made distribution of his works possible.



[1] H.G. Liddell and R. Scott, A Greek-English Lexicon (rev. H.S. Jones and R. McKenzie, rev. supp. by P.G.W. Glare), (Oxford, 1996), 1599.



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