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.

Obama amabo - An amusing wordplay

Friday, July 25, 2008, 13:29 - Jokes and anecdotes
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For the uninitiated, "amabo" means "I shall love" in Latin. And Obama means... Actually, I don't know what that means. And it's not my point here at all :)

A few weeks ago my professor showed to me this palindrome. At first I thought that an attempt should have been made to put Obama in the Accusative (pretty simple - Obamam), but this would have destroyed the palindrome. On the other hand, this name could very easily be taken to be indeclinable, because it's foreign and all that... Since then, the candidate has enraged the general public and, I must assume, enthralled Latinists with the whole vero possumus business. I won't make any comments on that, my purpose here is merely to report the technopaegnia.

Latin quote from 'Braveheart': Ego numquam pronunciare mendacium, sed ego sum homo indomitus

Wednesday, July 23, 2008, 15:53 - Bad Latin Quote Alerts, Latin Translation
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Ego numquam pronunciare mendacium, sed ego sum homo indomitus
Supposed to mean "I never tell a lie, but I am a savage."

I have seen Braveheart only once a long time ago, so I have no idea at what point in the movie this phrase comes up and in what context. It does, however, seem to be not so good Latin. Which is a shame, because there is no doubt that some people found this quote appealing and as a result chose to feature it on their skin (off all places!).

Some reasons that should make it clear why the Latin is substandard.

1. Pronunciare is an infinitive. Why the infinitive was chosen is beyond me, especially because a standard form found in Latin dictionaries (pronuncio, 1st sing, Present Active) would have looked a lot more plausible. There is no reason here for Historic Infinitive and I just cannot think of any other explanation other that someone's attempt to translate into Latin something like "I am not to tell lies."

2. Nowhere in Latin literature, both Classical and Medieval, the words pronuncio mendacium can be found. This expression simply was never used by anyone, even though it is quite understandable to anyone who spent some time learning Latin.

3. Nowhere in Latin literature the words "homo indomitus" can be found. This is clearly a made-up way of locution that has no precedents.

4. The word order in the second half of the quote seems unnatural. The "Ego" is also quite redundant.

This post is a part of my "bad Latin quote alert" efforts. Unless you find confirmation from a Latinist much better than yours truly, please only use the quote in question with full knowledge of its erroneous nature.

Codex Sinaiticus Online

Monday, July 21, 2008, 20:02 - Books, dictionaries and texts, Ancient Greek Language
Posted by Administrator
Codex Sinaiticus is one of the most important books in the world. Handwritten well over 1600 years ago, the manuscript contains the Christian Bible in Greek, including the oldest complete copy of the New Testament. Its heavily corrected text is of outstanding importance for the history of the Bible and the manuscript - the oldest substantial book to survive Antiquity - is of supreme importance for the history of the book.

This Website will go live on July 24, 2008

Truly, a marvelous codex. I saw it in London. Now we can all have our own printouts, I hope. I wonder if it is going to show up on Google Books :)

Vox populi - vox Dei

Vox populi - vox Dei
The voice of the people (is) the voice of God

Reading the Wikipedia article about the meaning of the phrase "vox populi (vox dei)" one may experience some confusion regarding the origin of the expression:

Often quoted as, Vox populi, vox dei, "The voice of the people is the voice of God", is an old proverb often erroneously attributed to William of Malmesbury in the twelfth century.[1]

Another early reference to the expression is in a letter from Alcuin to Charlemagne in 798, although it is believed to have been in earlier use.[2] The full quotation from Alcuin reads:

Nec audiendi qui solent dicere, Vox populi, vox Dei, quum tumultuositas vulgi semper insaniae proxima sit.[3]

English translation:

And those people should not be listened to who keep saying the voice of the people is the voice of God, since the riotousness of the crowd is always very close to madness.[4]

Indeed, further medieval references can be cited, such as Peter Damian:

Tunc denique probatum est uerum esse quod dicitur: Vox populi uox Dei.
And then if finally proved to be true they, as they say: The voice of the people is the voice of God.

But Let us now look at Isaiah 66:6, using Jerome's Latin translation:

vox populi de civitate vox de templo vox Domini reddentis retributionem inimicis suis

The voice of the people from the town, the voice from the temple, the voice of the Lord who renders recompense to His enemies.

What's interesting, you will not find the word people in the Septuagint and, as far as I can tell, in the Hebrew text. Cf. KJV:

A voice of noise from the city, a voice from the temple, a voice of the LORD that rendereth recompence to his enemies.

Whatever the reason for textual discrepancies, we have an innovation in the Latin translation (although, I am sure, Jerome had some textual basis for his reading). Thus, for the first time we have within the same context the idea of the people's voice and the idea of the voice of God. Apparently, sometime after the Vulgate became widely used these two ideas produced the well-known proverb. It is funny that the origin of the phrase is completely erroneous and accidental, but it is still regarded as holding some veracity and an independent value of a morally obliging statement!

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