Category: Fun & Games


Permalink 11:18:46 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 31 words, 5295 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

Hoc te amplius bibisse praedicet loti...

Huh…so now I read that Chinese scientists have developed a method to grow teeth from the stem cells in urine. Maybe that roman with the silly grin was onto something…


Permalink 10:50:34 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 159 words, 6117 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

More all-noun lines

I wrote a post some time back about Latin verses consisting of all nouns. Now that I’m leading a survey course on Medieval Latin, I’ve had a chance to read excerpts from Venantius Fortunatus–here’s another entry from his De Virginitate, describing in rather phallic terms the threats that chaste women will virtuously overcome:

Vipera, serps, jaculus, basiliscus, emorrois, aspis,
   Faucibus horrificis sibila torsit iners

“Viper, serpent, javelin-snake, basilisk, cobra ([i]haemorrhois[/i]), asp;
   (each one) uselessly brandished hisses from (its) frightful jaws.”

Incidentally, both Fortunatus and St. Aldheim penned lengthy Latin poems titled De Virginitate (Aldheim actually wrote a prose work first; the poem was a paraphrase). Add to that earlier prose works on the topic by Sts. Gregory of Nyssa, Jerome, Ambrose, Augustine–and one can be forgiven for wondering if the Church has inherited an unhealthy obsession regarding female (and male) sexuality. But perhaps that’s changing ever so gradually


Permalink 11:34:21 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 86 words, 4179 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Literature, Fun & Games

Terribilis Sonitus

Whenever I hear the vuvuzelas buzzing at the current World Cup, I can’t help but think of this passage from Vergil:

At tuba terribilem sonitum procul aere canoro
increpuit, sequitur clamor caelumque remugit.
(Aeneid IX.503-4)

But just as today’s war-trumpets imitate the battle sound of a half-remembered past, Virgil also seems to have borrowed an earlier tune. Check out this ontomatopoeia from Ennius, a line preserved in a passage from Priscian:

At tuba terribili sonitu taratantara dixit

Taratantara–I guess that’s the ancient equivalent of GOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!!!!!!!


Permalink 06:18:13 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 46 words, 1770 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

Flocci et Nauca

I think we already know why we’re all better off with Latin, but it’s nice to hear it again avery once in a while.

And lest you think I’m being a little too grandiose, here’s a few groaners only a Latin fan could loveRecto, dude!


Permalink 11:16:35 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 21 words, 1577 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Pinus Envy?

White Pine

Yeah, that’s a pretty juvenile headline…let’s just say I share something in common with the Michigan Secretary of State’s office.


Permalink 11:39:23 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 34 words, 1719 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Vir Ferreus

The fact that Scarlett Johanssen’s character (in the new Iron Man II film) speaks Latin should triple the number of high-school boys lining up to study the language…


Permalink 10:42:39 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 41 words, 3197 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Modern Latin

Flammas domamus donamus cordem

Quick…did you spot the problem with that banner/headline? Because the folks who came up with this new motto for Italy’s firefighters (yes, Italy) could probably use a Latin refresher course…

…adding: I found a picture on Italy’s Il Gazzettino.


Permalink 11:49:15 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 136 words, 4140 views   English (US)
Categories: Announcements, Fun & Games

Some Trifling Matters

If you’re a fan of old Loebs or need to find one that’s out of print, be careful with this link from Edonnelly–it’s the quickest way to find free copies from Google Books (and links to booksellers if your one of those who won’t settle for anything less than a red/green cover).

Tellus, described as ” magazine for poetry which sparks ancient worlds into life", looks promising. The first issue is due March10th, and it’s free…

…and it’s not quite Latin, but as a kid I absolutely LOVED 1981’s Clash of the Titans and the ingenious special effects of Ray Harryhausen. The idea of a remake sounds almost sacrilegious, but if it’s going to be in 3D, then I’m totally up for getting petrified by the Medusa.


Watch the trailer here if you dare.


Permalink 11:11:48 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 232 words, 1526 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Roman Culture

So, how many can you show in a single episode?

The US pay-cable channel Starz is kicking off a 13-part series on Spartacus this Friday at 10 EST. The NY Times has a puff piece informative review drawing the usual U.S. vs. Rome parallels–not to mention the series’ unsurprising focus on “stylized, even balletic” violence and “abundant nudity, both male and female.”

I will be watching because, well, I’m interested in ancient Rome and willing to give it a chance. And I can say that I went into HBO’s ROME with similar low expectations and came away modestly pleased; in that series, the device of following the action via Vorenus and Pullo (soldiers in Caesar’s army) allowed for a more complete picture of Roman life that didn’t rely exclusively on political intrigue, shocking violence or overblown sex. My fear is that the Starz series will spend far more time with those last two items–the presence of Sam Raimi doesn’t inspire much hope, and with the skimpy historical details what else can they do to fill the time. Exercises in style like the recent 300 and (to a lesser extent) the Oscar-winning Gladiator seemed to treat the ancient world as little more than an action-movie vehicle, and perhaps I’m too familiar with the source material to enjoy the one-dimensional caricature offered by the swords n’ sandals genre…

But that’s just my opinion…tune in for youself and explain my idiocy in comments.


Permalink 11:41:00 am, by Chris Jones Email , 152 words, 4326 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Literature, Fun & Games

He can still scandalize...

…even after 2000 years! NPR’s All Things Considered reports on how a London criminal case is turning on a line from Catullus. The transcript includes an audio feed, in case you’re curious about Cambridge Don Mary Beard’s voice.

NPR bleeped both Catullus and the English translation of his line. I think it’s a little prudish to censor the Latin, but perhaps they’re pre-empting youngsters who would no doubt turn it into a trendy new vulgarity:-). Fearlessly taking that chance, I’ll guess from context that the line has to be Pedicabo ego vos et irrumabo - “I’ll f*** you in the a** and in the mouth” (XVI.1), the delightful opening of a hendecasyllabic wishing the best for two of the poet’s critics. Pronounce it “ WOHS et EEER-ruh-MAH-boh,” and accent the capitalized syllables a bit to get the rhythm of the poetic meter. Some kid is going to have loads of fun with this…


Permalink 10:33:54 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 30 words, 3137 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games


Spotted the video below as part of a thread on the Latin Forum; truly an opus mirandum

You’ll probably need the written text to follow along.


Permalink 11:01:33 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 305 words, 5703 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

Halloween (pt. 3)

Like all good horror franchises, I’ve broken this story from Petronius into a trilogy. Now onto the dramaic conclusion; Niceros has just learned the werewolf had visited his sweetheart’s farm and was driven off with a spear: Haec ut audivi, operire oculos amplius non potui (amplius - “any more")



Permalink 05:35:47 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 15 words, 1476 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games


Really, no one covering the Canadian parliament–no PRINT reporter–has heard of lorem ipsum?


Permalink 10:54:32 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 358 words, 4976 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

Halloween (pt. 2)

Continuing our scary Halloween tale from Petronius..let’s see what happens to our soldier-turned-werewolf. But first, the storyteller Niceros reminds the audience that his tale is of course all 100% true: Nolite me iocari putare; ut mentiar, nullius patrimonium tanti facio. Try the following English-order for the latter half: Facio patrimonium (inheritance) nullius (esse) tanti (gen. of value) ut mentiar (result clause).



Permalink 10:10:05 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 322 words, 7284 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

For Halloween...

Lon Chaney's Wolfman…a frightful tale from Petronius’ Satyricon (LXII). For the moment, let’s put aside the detailed analysis of a complex author and just revel in a good story. Beginners welcome; this bit of Latin can be unlocked with just a few simple notes…



Permalink 11:18:53 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 22 words, 1540 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

More Latin for the iPhone

A Bulgarian SW developer has just released 1400 LATIN EXPRESSIONS 1.0 for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Just $1 for the wisdom of the ages…


Permalink 03:40:38 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 141 words, 1380 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Whine, Whine, Whine!

Last month, satirist Joe Queenan wrote a WSJ opinion piece about the reader’s review section. With tongue firmly in cheek, he wonders what such reviewers might have done with older classics–including Virgil’s Aeneid–if it had been written in the Internet age:

Average reader’s rating: Two stars. Whine, whine, whine! Okay, so your hometown burnt to the ground and your family got wiped out, but do you have to keep bellyaching about it? Where’s that gonna get you, Mr. Grumpy? Basically, Virgil is a poor man’s Tacitus. He goes on and on about Priam and Dido and Zeus, when all the reader wants is to get to the good part when the Trojans defile the Vestal Virgins. And talk about a rip-off: He doesn’t even include the story about the one-eyed giant who can turn pigs into Greeks!


Permalink 10:36:50 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 83 words, 3296 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

My favorite is medio tutissimus ibis

A little old (been traveling without internet access for the past wek), but Mary Beard’s list of suggested quotes for the London Underground is well worth a few minutes of your time.

If I were to add just one, I’d suggest dum aes exigitur…tota abit hora, from Horace’s description of a canal trip in Sat. I.V.13-14. If the Tube is anything like the Chicago CTA, I’m sure more than one fare-paying passenger has lost an hour stuck on a motionless train…


Permalink 11:26:07 am, by Chris Jones Email , 165 words, 22506 views   English (US)
Categories: Lost in Translation, Fun & Games

Latin tattoo

There’s an interesting thread on Akela’s Latin Forum regarding awful latin tattoos. The one in the picture is particularly terrible, the hilarious result of sticking an English version of Psalms 23:4 into an automated internet translator. Note that the inker added insult to injury by misinterpreting haud as “hand” and misspelling sententia.

All kidding aside, these internet translators are simply worthless for translating into a non-native language. I do use Babelfish occasionally for business–I receive quite a few technical specifications written in languages other than English, and Babelfish allows me to quickly skim a document before a competent translation is produced–but I wouldn’t dream of using it to communicate in a non-native language.

Most Latin message boards are littered with translation requests for tattoos. The trend seems to reinforce the notion that Latin is some inscrutable code or mystic argot, and as I’m more interested in Latin as a real language I usually don’t participate unless the original quote presents an interesting translation problem.


Permalink 10:20:05 am, by Chris Jones Email , 131 words, 2131 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games, Modern Latin

Centumduodecimium is too long for the chart

A small bit of Latin in this Yahoo! article on the official addition of element 112 to the Periodic Table of Elements:

The zinc and lead nuclei were fused to form the nucleus of the new element, also known as Ununbium, Latin for 112.

The naming follows a similar pattern for all recently-discovered elements:

110 Ununnilium (renamed Darmstadtium in 2003)
111 Unununium (renamed Roentgenium in 2004)
112 Ununbium (Uub)
113 Ununtrium (Uut)
114 Ununquadium (Uuq)
115 Ununpentium (Uup)
116 Ununhexium (Uuh)
117 Ununseptium (Uus)
118 Ununoctium (Uuo)

Latinists will recognize the contracted numeral roots in all of these. Most of them are Latin, but a few (e.g. Ununpentium) are Greek, no doubt to provide the element with a unique atomic symbol (Ununquiquium would have the same symbol as Ununquadium).

If custom holds, Ununbium will receive a new designation soon. Might I suggest Centumduodecimium?


Permalink 11:26:29 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 60 words, 3124 views   English (US)
Categories: Announcements, Fun & Games

Ite Romani Domum

Stumbled on a new Classics blog: Pop Classics, a fun if somewhat fastidious review of clasical influences in modern pop culture (sorry, I thought the whole Star Trek franchise was played out long before Voyager:-).

Anyway, I’ve added it to the blogroll…take a look if you’re having trouble remembering the film that translated the phrase in the title line…


Permalink 02:32:47 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 63 words, 3384 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Statius' Thebaid I

Classics in the Electronic Age

Although I have yet to find a compelling use for Twitter, someone has set up a Daily Thebaid twitter promising one line translated each day. By my calculations that project should last, oh, about 14 years. If you’re interested, the opener Fraternas acies… comes July 1st.

And while we’re at it, if you haven’t see the Aeneid Facebook Page, well, where have you been?


Permalink 04:55:19 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 97 words, 1675 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Modern Latin

In Libris Scriptum Sit.

The newly-built Citi Field–like many other recent ballparks–has generated revenue by allowing fans to leave personal messages inscribed in bricks installed in walkways/concourses around the yard. Mets fans in New York paid $400 apiece to immortalize their words in an 8″x8″ brick along the Fan Walk, and if it’s anything like similar projects around the US there are probably more than a few in Latin. The New York Times did a brief survey, and you can probably guess the favorite quote…

BTW, if anyone spots another favorite Latin ballyard inscription, that’s what comments are for…


Permalink 12:22:36 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 70 words, 3134 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Calpurnius' Bucolica

So True

More on Calpurnius’ fourth eclogue in an upcoming post, but for now I had to share these few lines, an epitaph for almost any modern Latin poet…

“Certe mea carmina nemo
praeter ab his scopulis ventosa remurmurat echo.”

“True, no one repeats my poems,
except the windy echo from these rocks.”

Substitute hoc interrete for his scopulis, and you have a headline quip for just about any Latin blog :)


Permalink 12:12:54 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 166 words, 1809 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

Latin scholar makes good

Gail Trimble

British readers are no doubt familiar with Gail Trimble, the Oxford Latin doctoral candidate who has dominated this year’s University Challenge (the UK equivalent of the US Quiz Bowl).

Her Corpus Christi College team won the event this past Monday, so illi doctae maximis honoribus gratulemur, and let me highlight one quote from her university homepage:

I chose to study Classics at university mostly because of the variety. Already at school in Latin and Greek I could combine language work with studying different kinds of literature, and I liked the idea of being able to study philosophy, history, art and even philology (though at the time I wasn’t too sure what that was) all within one degree.

Well said Ms. Trimble; such is the value of a classical education…

…adding, I wish I’d thought to check Mary Beard’s site before posting. Great piece, and she’s write in admiring a classicist who composes verse “over a gin and tonic". That’s been my MO ever since grad school:-)


Permalink 02:02:21 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 347 words, 3268 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

Classical Slumdog

The Oscars are this weekend, and by all accounts the excellent Indian film Slumdog Millionaire is going to do very well.

Many reviewers have pointed out how “old-fashioned” the film is, while a few others notice the rather obvious parallels with Dickens’ Oliver Twist. But for me, the film’s structure and themes harkened back to some classical ideas about good storytelling. Like Aeneas, the carefully-structured quest of Jamal requires him to make a personal transformation and eventually surrender to divine will. But the quest also serves to hold a mirror up to Indian society itself, much like the way Lucan or Petronius’ silver-age novel Satyricon used a “simple” story to reveal some of the ugly side of Rome. And, of course, Destiny is provided with a large role, something I wrote about in previous post. The difference in Slumdog is that destiny as divine providence is taken far more seriously than in most modern art (i.e. it doesn’t rely on a scientific explanation, as when Lost uses time travel to introduce it as a storytelling element), and this form of Destiny is much more like the Fatum and Numina of ancient literature.

So I agree the film is old fashioned, with structural elements perhaps even older than most reviewers suspect. And the film proves such a style doesn’t necessarily have to be boring. Certainly placing the story in a novel location (at least for an American audience) helps, but the essential challenges Jamal faces matter far beyond the slums of Mumbai, and the “old-fashioned” structure does a pretty good job exploring these.

My blog naturally focuses on literature from the ancient world, but please don’t take this post as a rally for the “good old days” of filmmaking (my wife and I also thought The Wrestler deserved a Best Picture nomination, which would hardly be described as “Capraesque"). Read enough Latin and Greek and you too can bring a classical perspective to a lot of modern film/TV/literature, one that gives you opportunity to observe firsthand how the best of art resonates across the generations.


Permalink 12:20:13 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 117 words, 1538 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, My Own Latin

That was when I ruled the world

That Coldplay song Viva la Vida has been bouncing around my head since last summer. It’s not the greatest tune in the world–too bombastic for my taste–but the line “Roman Cavalry choirs are singing” caught my ear and prompted an immediate Latin translation –Chori Equitum Romanorum–which serendipitously matches the English rhythm.

Alas, most of the song’s lyrics are–to be charitable–melancholy imagist nonsense. Nevertheless, here’s a shot at the chorus:

En campanae Hierosolymorum,
Chori equitum Romanorum
Vitrum, ensis estote aegis,
Legati mihi in alienis.
Quamquam causam nullam causor
A Sancto Petro non vocabor
Verbum non honestum
Cum regnavi iam mundum.

Eh…not great, but these are the things I waste my time with.


Permalink 10:44:30 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 29 words, 3055 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

Everybody else is linking to it...

For the handful who haven’t seen this yet. Catullus would be proud, though I agree with Rogue Classicism–this isn’t really all that punk…


Permalink 01:50:52 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 46 words, 1457 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Modern Latin

These Gauls are crazy...

I’ve mentioned before how much I enjoyed the Asterix comics series when I was younger; it still seems like a great way to attract kids to the subject. Unfortunately, it seems a family dispute is threatening the title more seriously than any Roman legion ever did.


Permalink 01:28:01 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 295 words, 4418 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Roman Culture

The role of Destiny

Last night’s post about the Latin in the TV show Lost sparked an idea that has been knocking around my head for a while. As viewers of that show are no-doubt aware, time-travel plays a big part in the ongoing story; in fact, explicit time travel can be found in quite a few modern pop-culture artifacts, not to mention the general narrative trend toward non-chronological storytelling (think of films like “Pulp Fiction", or the now-ubiquitous practice of TV shows that present how the story will end prior to the opening credits, only to double back to the beginning after the first 8 or 10 minutes).

The Parcae or Fata play an important role in classical literature, most notably in Vergil’s Aeneid. The modern trope of time travel serves the same narrative purpose that concepts like Fatum did in the ancient world. In these older stories, supernatual characters would make oracular pronouncements like “It is your destiny” to move the plot along and alert an attentive reader to signposts in the narrative ahead. Today these same story functions are commonly handled by a character explaining in a purely scientific way how the physical laws of time travel should work: You either can’t “affect the timeline” (manent immota tuorum/fata tibi - Aen.I.257-8), or if you do the results are uniformly a disaster that “needs to be fixed” (think of how miserable Aeneas is until he understands and accepts his destiny).

IMO, while a modern writer may recognize the narrative utility of devices like fate and destiny, he/she knows a modern audience wouldn’t accept the usual supernatural explanation or its attendant religious/philosophical underpinnings. So fate is varnished with a pseudo-scientific verneer; the ideas of classical literature aren’t at all dead, just transformed for a more sophisticated audience.


Permalink 11:00:27 am, by Chris Jones Email , 32 words, 1507 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, My Own Latin

To make it official...

…he should really take the oath in Latin, right?

Ego, Barack Obama, solemniter iuro magisterium Praefecti Civitatum Coniunctorum bona fide exsequi, atque pro mea parte Constitutionem Civitatum Coniunctorum custodire, servare, et defendere.


Permalink 10:55:08 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 177 words, 4228 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games, Modern Latin

Si parva licet componere magnis

Si parva licet componere magnis

An art installation by Lawrence Weiner at Rome’s Gagosian Gallery should delight any Latinists planning a visit.

The show has gotten at least one good review, though the author should check his Latin sources more closely. Si parva licet componere magnis is actually from the Georgics, not the Aeneid. After describing the hot work of the Cyclopses in their forge under Mt. Etna, he compares it to the furious labor of bees:

Non aliter–si parva licet componere magnis–
Cecropias innatus apes amor urget habendi,
munere quamque suo.
(G. IV.176-8)

Innatus…amor…habendi should be taken as the complete subject of urget; Cecropias - “Cecropian” identifies these apes as ones that buzz over Athens (Cecrops is the city’s legendary founder, and honey was one of Greece’s most important exports). Note how Vergil passes from the plural apes to the singular quamque - “each one (of which)".

The phrase almost sounds like Vergil is making a parenthetical apology for his unusual simile, since tiny bees and gigantic cyclopses might be too far out of proportion to produce an effective comparison.


Permalink 09:50:22 am, by Chris Jones Email , 114 words, 1440 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Roman Culture

More on cultural symbols

I wrote a post on the Sator/Rotas square late last night, and as I turned in the perfect illustration of a group-transcendent symbol occurred to me: The now-ubiquitous image of revolutionary Che Guevara that has been lithographed and screenprinted throughout the world.

These days, the image is hardly an endorsement of a particular political system; it is simply a popular cultural abstraction. Similarly, whatever the origin of the Sator/Rotas square, it didn’t necessarily require an organized group (like the Christians) to propagate it thru the empire. If future archaeologists were to unearth a Che Guevara T-shirt in, say, Juneau, would they be justified in arguing Alaska was a hotbed of communist activity?


Permalink 11:54:06 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 314 words, 2922 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Roman Culture

Semordnilap pt. 4

No review of palidromes would be complete without a mention of the Sator/Rotas square:

S A T O R   The sower
A R E P O   Arepo
T E N E T   holds
O P E R A   with effort
R O T A S   the wheels.



Permalink 12:11:33 am, by Chris Jones Email , 271 words, 3630 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games, Roman Culture

Semordnilaps pt. 3

Sidonius’ letter regarding palindromes dates from the fifth century, a time when classical poetry was becoming an academic exercise, the irrelevant plaything of dilletants who sang about sterile mythology while an empire crumbled around them. The English poet W. H. Auden captures their overwrought pedantry perfectly in his poem The Epigoni:

It would have been an excusable failing
Had they broken out into womanish wailing
Or, dramatising their doom, held forth
In sonorous clap-trap about death;
To their credit, a reader will only perceive
That the language they loved was coming to grief,
Expiring in preposterous mechanical tricks,
Epanaleptics, rhopalics, anacyclic anacrostics:
To their lasting honor, the stuff they wrote
Can safely be spanked away in a scholar’s foot-note,
Called shallow by a mechanised generation for whom
Haphazard oracular grunts are profound wisdom.

Continuing this theme, I happened across an epigram by Martial that comments on a similar over-indulgence of wordplay from the lesser Silver Age bards:

Quod nec carmine glorior supino
nec retro lego Sotaden cinaedum,

non sum, Classice, tam malus poeta.
(Epig. II.86.1-2,5)

Sotaden (Gk. accusative form of Sotades) is apparently a poet who dabbled in carmen supinum, a term I translate as “backward poetry". Martial’s opinion of these imitators–who must have had some vogue in 1st century Rome if it merited an epigram–is neatly summarize in two later lines:

Turpe est difficiles habere nugas
et stultus labor est ineptiarum.
(ibid. 9-10)

Difficiles…nugas - “difficult trifles” isn’t just an amusing oxymoron but a fair assessment of palindromes in general. Perhaps then I’ve spent enough time with these trifles…and yet I have enough for just one more post…


Permalink 11:28:55 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 270 words, 3191 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games, Roman Culture

Semordnilap (pt. 2)

Sidonius’ letter goes on to describe another kind of versus recurrentes…qui pedum lege servata etsi non per singulos apices (letters), per singula tamen verba replicantur. Sidonius illustrates this type of “word” palindrome with a cute story:

(Rivulus) repentino procellarum pastus illapsu publicumque aggerem confragoso diluvio supergressus subdita viae culta inundaverat…Igitur istic (nam viator adveneram), dum magis ripam quam vadum quaero, tali iocatus epigrammate per turbulenti terga torrentis his saltem pedibus incessi:

Praecipiti modo quod decurrit tramite flumen
   tempore consumptum iam cito deficiet.

(pastus is ppt. of pascere - “feed", referring to the rivulus; publicum…aggerem - “public levee", obj. of supergressus; vadum - “shallows"; magis ripam quam vadum quaero means Sidonius is willing to wait for the ripa rather than wade thru the vadum; saltem is an amusing touch, playing on the anatomical/poetic double meaning of pedes)

I translate the couplet “Right on the edge of doom because a river rushes over the path /Overwhelmed in a moment, he now will quickly pass away.” If w reverse the order of the words:

Deficiet cito iam consumptum tempore flumen,
   tramite decurrit quod modo praecipiti.

I translate “The spent river swiftly passes away in a moment/(the river) which runs just now on the dangerous path.” Not bad–the couplet covers both the sudden appearance and disappearance of a flash flood–but the Latin is a bit convoluted. Sidonius concedes as much in the following passage, which could apply generally to any such word games:

En habes versus, quorum syllabatim mirere rationem. Ceterum pompam, quam non habent, non docebunt.

(mirere = mireris; syllabatim - “syllable by syllable")


Permalink 12:40:12 am, by Chris Jones Email , 367 words, 3337 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games, Roman Culture


Subi dura a rudibus - “Undergo rough things from rude men” is a neat little palindrome, a sentence that reads the same forward and backwards (I’m pretty sure it’s post-classical, but if anyone knows the source please put a cite in the comments).

Similar word puzzles are attested in ancient sources; the 5th-century bishop Apollinaris Sidonius includes an example in a letter from a preserved collection of the cleric’s correspondence. Burgundio, a young litterateur from a well-connected Gallic family, had apparently asked Sidonius about recurrentes versus:

…interrogas per pugillatorem, quos recurrentes asseram versus, ut celer explicem, sed sub exemplo. hi nimirum sunt recurrentes, qui metro stante neque litteris loco motis ut ab exordio ad terminum, sic a fine releguntur ad summum. Sic est illud antiquum: “Roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor.” [Et illud: “Sole medere, pede ede, perede melos".] (Epistulae IX.14)

(pugillator is a messenger–is this hapax legomena? Nimirum - “without a doubt". metro stante - “with meter preserved")

Sidonius’ Latin isn’t exactly Ciceronian, but there are a few items worth highlighting. First, the palindrome Roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor is called illud antiquum (as opposed to, say, notum). It seems safe to conclude the verse predates the 5th century, perhaps by more than a generation. Also, the second example–enclosed in brackets here–is translated “Heal with the sun, eat with a foot, devour songs". Even for a palindrome this is pretty nonsensical, and to my eye it looks like the insertion of a bored/overconfident copyist. Finally, the verse has the meter of an elegiac pentameter–the second half of an elegiac couplet–so its natural to wonder if there was ever a first half to this verse. A legend attributed to St. Martin of Tours supplies one possibility, as a donkey carrying the saint on pilgrimage to Rome protests his master’s rough treatment (an obvious allusion to the Biblical story of Balaam and the Ass in Numbers 22:28):

Signa te, signa; temere me tangis et angis;
   Roma tibi subito motibus ibit amor.

(The verb signa mean “to cross oneself” in Christian contexts)

Sidonius mentions another word game in this interesting letter; feel free to read ahead or check in for the next post…


Permalink 03:05:43 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 57 words, 1492 views   English (US)
Categories: Announcements, Fun & Games, Education

Terence Awards

Attention Middle/High School Latin students in the US: eClassics is sponsoring the 1st Annual Terence Awards, a program that offers cash and other prizes for classics-related videos.

If you or your class put together a Latin-related video, you’re eligible to enter; check the link for details. Submissions must be in by the end of 2008; Bona Fortuna!.

Permalink 02:45:55 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 68 words, 3232 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

Happy Birthday Horace!

I figure most people beyond the age of 21 don’t seriously celebrate birthdays, and given the multiple changes to the calendar since his birth it seems foolish to single out any one day. Nevertheless, December 8th is the traditional birthday of one of my favorite poets, Quintus Horatius Flaccus.

While his poetry is timeless, he himself would be 2073 today–more than enough reason that natalis grate numeras (Epistles II.2.210 :) )


Permalink 09:46:06 am, by Chris Jones Email , 289 words, 2823 views   English (US)
Categories: Vocabulary and Grammar, Fun & Games, Education

Felix dies gratiae agendae

Today is Thanksgiving day in the US, dies ad gallipavonem edendum spectandumque pedifollem consecratur. If you’re not familiar with the Latin words for “turkey” and “football", I recommend you pick up the latest edition of the excellent New College Latin and English Dictionary by John Traupmann. In my opinion this is the best pocket Latin dictionary around; cheap, thorough, and not nearly as heavy as the OLD (although you can keep a copy of the OLD on CD-ROM, for my Latin studies at least there’s no substitute for actual printed books, and that includes reference materials; it’s part of the connection to a long line of Latin scholars).

I got my first copy of Traupman’s dictionary in my freshman year of college, many many moons ago. From practical experience I can tell you they last about six years with moderate to heavy use. After a few years the page edges get dirty from excessive thumbing, eventually the glue-backed spine will crease at some well-worn page, and then pages become unglued.

At that point I usually trash it and buy a new one; my last such upgrade was in 2007, and I noticed some substantial changes in this latest edition:

  • The letter “J” is gone; all entries use the classical “I". I never really cared about this distinction, but some classicists are sticklers. U and V remain.
  • The English-to-Latin section has been extensively revised with quite a few modern terms (like gallipavo and pedifoliis). Given the enormous growth in spoken Latin, this change was a bit overdue.

I’m admittedly biased–I’ve literally marked my years with purchases of this dictionary–but it has been a faithful companion to my studies for the past 20-odd years. I couldn’t recommend it any higher.


Permalink 10:42:55 am, by Chris Jones Email , 33 words, 1723 views   English (US)
Categories: Vocabulary and Grammar, Fun & Games, Education

Another silly Mnemonic rhyme...

..found this tucked away in Bradley’s Arnold; all the prepositions that exclusively take the ablative case:

a, ab, abs, with cum and de
coram, pro, with ex and e,
sine, palam, also prae.”


Permalink 10:24:34 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 438 words, 3228 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games, Roman Culture

Dies lucis servandi

I really don’t see the point of daylight savings time anymore. Originally instituted in the US during the first World War, the measure increased the amount of summer daylight in the evening so that people would use as much electricity for electric lights. But the electrical savings today are miniscule considering the total use of electricity–most folks stay up later nowadays and use far more juice on appliances than on electric light–and a 1998 study in the New England Journal of Medicine argues that we pay for DST with an increase in traffic accidents–both in the spring and in the fall. And with Congress changing the US dates for DST in 2007, we are no longer in sync with the rest of the world (a concern for international business–just this past week I had trouble connecting on a conference call because Germany has “fallen back” a week earlier than the US). We already spend over 2/3 of the year on DST, so I have to wonder: Why not just keep the summer hours year round?

So what does this have to do with Latin? Well, it seems even antiquity had a problem adjusting life to the dictates of the clock. Preserved in Gellius’ Attic Nights is an otherwise lost fragment from an unknown play of Plautus. Gellius helpfully sets the scene: Parasitus…esuriens haec dicit:

Ut illum di perdant, primus qui horas repperit,
quique adeo primus statuit hic solarium!
Qui mihi comminuit misero articulatim diem.
Nam me puero uenter erat solarium
multo omnium istorum optimum et uerissimum:
Ubi is te monebat, esses, nisi cum nihil erat.
Nunc etiam quod est, non estur, nisi soli libet;
itaque adeo iam oppletum oppidum est solariis,
maior pars populi aridi reptant fame.
(Noct. Att. III.3.5)

(The leading ut=utinam; take the perf. subj. repperit to mean something like “distinguish"; in line 4–although there is no participle–take me puero to be abl. abs.; the is of line 6 refers back to venter and would be a qui in later writers; esses is not a form of esse, but a form of edo - “eat"; note the plural verb in the final line with the ‘collective’ subject maior pars populi)

I’ve always found this selection amusing; the speaker is complaining about the “new-fangled” solarium, but nowadays very few inventions seem more ancient than the sundial. However, the selection does acknowledge a more universal truth: The tendency for the works of man, created at first as his servant, soon become his master. So let me ask you again; why exactly do we choose to move the clock back and forth an hour twice each year?


Permalink 11:21:44 am, by Chris Jones Email , 106 words, 1337 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

"Toga optional"?

The Latin club at Massachusetts’ Chatham High-School is planning a club trip to Rome this February. To raise funds, they are holding a 5K toga run on Nov. 8th.

Using overseas trips to reinforce modern language classes is somewhat common for high-school seniors (at least in the wealthier school districts), but I don’t believe I’ve ever seen a similar program for Latin students. Yet another sign that Latin study is growing in the US.

On the off chance there are any Latin-scholar running enthusiasts in the Cape Cod area, the run costs $10. I also think the club would accept donations. Check the article for further details.


Permalink 04:03:07 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 450 words, 6383 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

Quae carmina ad insulam desertam feras?

ARTL Blogger poses the “Desert Island” music question with a Latin twist: If you were stuck on a desert island, what eight Latin-language lyrics would you want to have with you?



Permalink 06:14:04 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 128 words, 1400 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Latin words we should use more often

A couple samples of Latin words you could drop into conversation

Crapula, -ae - “drunkeness, ‘high’". The beauty of this word for English is that is sounds like “crap", not bad when you consider some of the more vulgar terms for getting drunk. Plautus has a character in his Mostella who edormivi crapulam - “slept it off", while Cicero describes certain corrupt judges in Sicily as men qui nondum…convivi crapulam exhalassent - “Who haven’t yet killed the buzz of the (last) party.”

Fatifer - “death-dealing". It just sounds cool, doesn’t it; What dangerous dude wouldn’t want to be known as fatifer?. The word shows up in the Aeneid as Ascanius fires an arrow that splits the skull of Remulus: Sonat una fatifer arcus - “At once the death-dealing bow resounds/snaps (sonat)".


Permalink 07:12:45 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 522 words, 2980 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games, Modern Latin

Tu Betchus Translated

A commentor has asked for a translation of Maureen Dowd’s dog-Latin Tu Betchus column. I haven’t looked too hard, but since I don’t see one on line, here’s my attempt (note that some of Dowd’s Latin is not strictly grammatical, so don’t ask me to defend this)…



Permalink 08:53:42 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 89 words, 1459 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

Pari passu

The UK Times has noticed that London mayor Boris Johnson–an avid classicist–has toned down his Latin/classical references. The phrase pari passu - “with equal step” is hardly a classical reference at all, but a legal term to indicate a lack of discrimination between separate parties, so it’s often a substitute for “fairly” in legal and financial settings.

The writer clearly has his tongue in his cheek, but this blog for one will dearly miss the old Boris if he no longer fovebit Romanos rerum dominos gentemque togatam.


Permalink 08:34:21 am, by Chris Jones Email , 142 words, 1948 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Fattus Cattus?!?

Some time ago I wrote a post on the Latin Forum of “Wordy Gurdy” puzzles. In English, the puzzle is a clue that suggests a two-word rhyming answer. For example “obese feline” = FAT CAT, or “electronic communication for the ladies” = FEMALE EMAIL.

I saved a few of my favorites, and thought readers might get a kick out of trying a couple–in Latin of course–as a fun start to the weekend. Try the first few below to get started; the answers (and a few more puzzles) can be found by clicking the “More” link.


i. Contribuis in die secundo

ii. Termino caret

iii. Fleas, puella mythologica! (quae stulta scrinium aperuit)



Permalink 10:34:48 am, by Chris Jones Email , 36 words, 1474 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Roman Culture

For the Besieger who Has Everything...

H/t to Gizmodo (via David Meadow’s Rogue Classicism) for finding this full-size replica of a Roman catapult up for bids on the UK version of eBay. It was originally built for a Discovery channel doc…


Permalink 09:41:31 am, by Chris Jones Email , 260 words, 2352 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, My Own Latin

Hanc Viam quam Colis

For me, one of the great tortures of modern life is a long overnight plane flight. I simply cannot sleep next to a stranger in a noisy, cramped airline seat, and after you watch the one semi-decent movie out of ten on that dim, two-inch video screen, you have essentially eight hours of enforced boredom. So I’ll finish a crossword, donate far more attention to the meal than it deserves, and break out the Latin books.



Permalink 01:17:06 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 77 words, 1513 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games, Modern Latin

I Missed this Last Month

The Pope’s visit to Sydney last month prompted the Australian government to pass a law permitting the arrest of anyone “annoying” papal well-wishers.

Pontifex me vexat

The law predictably backfired, and judging by the photo seems to have inspired a lucrative T-shirt business protesting both the visit and the (somewhat arbitrary IMO) law. The hawker in this photo wears a shirt sporting some tit-for-tat Latin: Pontifex me vexat - “The pope annoys me.” Two shots for the price of one. :D


Permalink 03:40:05 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 699 words, 6758 views   English (US)
Categories: Announcements, Fun & Games, Modern Latin

Sex Captiunculae Cotidianae

Jeff Woodward over at Thursday Night Gumbo has tagged me along with five much more talented bloggers to complete a chain-letter style exercise. The rules:

1. Link the person(s) who tagged you.
2. Mention the rules on your blog.
3. Tell about 6 unspectacular quirks of yours.
4. Tag 6 fellow bloggers by linking them.
5. Leave a comment on each of the tagged blogger’s blogs letting them know they’ve been tagged.

I’m complying only because Mr. Watson’s request for captiunculae cotidianae is a respectable and alliterative translation for “unremarkable quirks". Ergo, continuo percensam



Permalink 08:56:05 am, by Chris Jones Email , 23 words, 1515 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Modern Latin, Education

Latinum Prandium

H/T to ARTL blog for pointing out this BBC video, a news report with staffers for Galore Park learning Latin over lunch.


Permalink 10:06:22 am, by Chris Jones Email , 54 words, 1791 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Trivia Answers

Hit “More” to see my answers to Friday’s trivia…



Permalink 03:15:04 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 100 words, 1353 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

More Weekend Trivia

The Latin word esse is a four-letter palindrome; it reads the same forward and backward.

There are quite a few five-letter words in Latin that are palidromes. How many can you name? I can think of at least two nouns in the nominative case and three present-tense finite verbs. Two of the verbs are fairly common; if you remember the Latin Square you’ve got one already…

But even longer palidromes have been known to crawl out of the Latin language; can you guess Latin’s longest palindrome word? I’m giving up no hints for this one…or maybe I already have ;)


Permalink 09:11:04 am, by Chris Jones Email , 172 words, 15146 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Modern Latin

More Tattoos

Ashley Alexandra Dupre is the call-girl whose relationship with New York Govenor Eliot Spitzer led to his recent resignation. A recent tabloid photo of Ms. Dupre on the beach revealed an odd Latin tattoo:

Tutela Valui

The newspaper that published this photo went to several classics scholars to translate the phrase Tutela Valui. The choices:

  • “My guardian was strong.”
  • “I’ve been well and remain that way because I have protection.”
  • “Safe haven”
  • “I have been highly proficient in support” (the translator jokingly simplified this to the racier “"I have been an expert escort.")

Needless to say, the tattoo is likely babelfish, so all of these could be justified in one way or another.

Chalk it up as another lesson for those interested in getting a tattoo in Latin. Gerry Visco, administrator of the Classics department at Columbia, summarizes nicely:

“We get a lot of people calling up - every day, I’d say - wanting to put something on a mug or T-shirt. They think there’s a team of scribes sitting here waiting to translate for them.”


Permalink 11:46:56 am, by Chris Jones Email , 106 words, 8719 views   English (US)
Categories: Announcements, Lost in Translation, Fun & Games, Modern Latin


Every on-line Latin forum I’ve visited is littered with Latin translation requests for tattoos. Some of the responses are the well-considered product of Latin diligence, while others are not much better than Babelfish. Which category do you think the following lands in:

Poena Par Sapientia

Behold the right forearm of Laredo Broncos’ pitcher John Odom, a professional (minor-league) baseball player who underwent “Tommy John” surgery to save his career in 2005 (see the scar right below the Latin). I wish this fellow all the best in his career, but hope he finds a better translation for his left arm (I think he’s going for Dolor Par Sapientiae - “Pain equals wisdom").


Permalink 04:33:41 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 448 words, 2179 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

Ordo Litterarum

I have mixed feelings about the annual Scripps National Spelling Bee (anyone know if/when “Howard’ was dropped from the title?). On the one hand, it’s nice to see Latin taken seriously in pop culture for a change. The uncommon words used in the competition require some detailed knowledge about the languages they come from, and we all know that Latin has deep roots in the English language.



Permalink 12:17:03 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 542 words, 2412 views   English (US)
Categories: Vocabulary and Grammar, Fun & Games

A Considerate Diversion

If you’re interested in words, the dictionary isn’t as much a reference as it is an opportunity to tour the language. Have you ever, for example, looked up one word but then noticed something that caused you to detour to another entry, and then another, and before you know it you’ve skipped thru a couple dozen pages? The OLD and L&S can sometimes get like that, with delicious etymologies and copious citations that occasionally lead you like stepping stones to some unusual corner of Latin you would have never reached otherwise.



Permalink 07:42:34 am, by Chris Jones Email , 145 words, 3329 views   English (US)
Categories: Lost in Translation, Literature, Fun & Games

Happy Memorial Day...

…a holiday in the US which is commonly marked by cookouts and parades; best to all.

If you’re looking for a bit of appropriate Latin, how about Cicero’s translation of Simonides’ epitaph to the Spartan dead at Thermopylae (see the movie 300 for vaguely-historic details):

“Dic, hospes Spartae nos te hic vidisse iacentes,
Dum sanctis patriae legibus obsequimur.”
(Tusc. Disp. I.42.101)

Though the source for this epigram (Tusculan Disputation I.42.101) isn’t well-known today, the writers of the film must have studied it closely. Here are the sentences that follow:

Quid ille dux Leonidas dicit? ‘Pergite animo forti, Lacedaemonii, hodie apud inferos fortasse cenabimus.’ Fuit haec gens fortis, dum Lycurgi leges vigebant. E quibus unus, cum Perses hostis in conloquio dixisset glorians: ‘Solem prae iaculorum multitudine et sagittarum non videbitis’, ‘In umbra igitur’ inquit ‘pugnabimus.’

Each of Cicero’s quotes from Leonidas are featured rather prominently in the


Permalink 01:04:23 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 23 words, 512 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

"It's just a nonsequitur"

For the long weekend, a cool bit of Latin that you can dance to; enjoy!


Permalink 04:54:23 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 41 words, 1333 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games In Memoriam

The English humorist Miles Kington died earlier this year, and the UK Independent is reprinting some of his best columns. For those who never read the original, the latest issue of the newspaper has a hilarious column about everyday Latin from 1992.


Permalink 10:50:49 am, by Chris Jones Email , 125 words, 1809 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Trivia answer...

…the question was fairly easy, but just in case, hit “more” for my answer.



Permalink 12:50:41 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 83 words, 1202 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Weekend trivia...

Facetious and the rare arsenious (definition: “pertaining to/containing arsenic") tie for the title of shortest words in English (nine letters) which contain all five vowels in order.

I have found four such words in Latin that have eight letters each, only one of which is not a proper noun; can you name it?

With a little thought, you should be able to narrow down the general form of the word. A quick check of the dictionary then should lead you to it.


Permalink 10:50:07 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 278 words, 6327 views   English (US)
Categories: Lost in Translation, Vocabulary and Grammar, Fun & Games

Interesting Textkit thread

There’s an interesting debate going on over at the Textkit Latin forum regarding the pronunciation of final -m in classical Latin; if you have some time, it’s worth reading thru the analysis.



Permalink 03:25:47 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 333 words, 9301 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Statius' Thebaid I

More scrambled Vergil

If you liked the Scrambled Vergil game I put up a few months ago, how about a few more to test your knowledge of the Dactylic Hexameter. But this time, I’m going to use lines from the readings of Statius (I’ve been dissecting the first book of his Thebaid here for the past month).


Pages: 1 2 3


Permalink 02:40:12 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 13 words, 1200 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games


..what is the only third-declension noun with a stem that ends in -m?


Permalink 02:59:51 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 35 words, 1390 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Asterix and His Secrets

A lot of Latin students (myself included) fell in love with the Asterix comic adventure. The New York Sun has a brief but interesting essay by one of the English translators of this peculiarly-Gallic Funnycomix :)

Permalink 10:21:05 am, by Chris Jones Email , 16 words, 1413 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

"Fetching Pink Lipstick"?

A few hilarious words from Independent UK columnist John Walsh on his daughter’s Latin school project…


Permalink 02:26:38 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 235 words, 3068 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

Lavinia Reviewed

As noted in a previous post, I’ve read Ursula K. LeGuin’s Lavinia a couple of weeks ago and enjoyed the novel, although I’ll admit I was the perfect audience for it. I thought I’d close the week with some links to reviews:

Laura Millaer, writing for Salon, has a very good review that hits the mark in the final paragraph, calling the book “old writer’s book – Le Guin is 79 – in the best sense of the word; it is ripe with that half-remembered virtue, wisdom.”

Yvonne Zipp of the Christian Science Monitor gives an overall positive review, praises her grafting of a feminist perspective on a male-dominated epic, and think (like me) the conversations in Albunea with the dying Vergil are a highlight of the book.

Sam Munson of the New York Sun faults the work as trivial, not just because it lies in the shadow of Vergil, but because of her “workmanlike prose” and a plot that lacks the epic scope seen in her other works.

Julie Brickman, a fiction lecturer at Spaulding University writing for the San Diego Union-Tribune, wonders how a book with such “mastery of technique and luminosity of language” could fall flat, and thinks LeGuin is too in love with Virgil to make an interesting story for the non-specialist.

Tricia Snell of The Oregonian finds the feminine perspective revealing, both in lavinia herself and on the better-known characters of the poem.


Permalink 09:11:16 am, by Chris Jones Email , 101 words, 2150 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Modern Latin

Concerro with 2 r's

Check out this error I found on news, a clearing house for tech company press releases:

San Diego-based BidShift said this morning that it has renamed the company, and has become Concerro, Incorporated. According to BidShift, Concerro is Latin for “to bridge or connect.”

Uh…no it isn’t. Concerro is Latin for “a boon companion, playmate"; the word is a combination of con- - “together” and the verb gero - “bring", referring perhaps to one who contributes food to a common feast.

Bidshift may have been shooting for concero - “join, inter-twine", a Medievalism hatched from the rare cero - “smear with wax".


Permalink 12:24:02 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 23 words, 1455 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Modern Latin

"Et Pluri-MAAAAAS..."

h/t to LatinTeach for finding this clip from The Colbert Report on Comedy Central. The Latin comes at about 1:30 into the clip.


Permalink 12:39:03 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 63 words, 1646 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games, Modern Latin

Io Io Io...

The UK Times reports on the European Festival of Latin and Greek in Nantes, France. One of the highlights was the German group Ista, who performs rap songs entirely in the Latin language.

Demo MP3’s can be found here on their website. The accent is a little thick and the rapping rather fast, so you may want to peek at the lyrics


Permalink 09:59:08 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 95 words, 3891 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Modern Latin

Latin Sport Team Mottoes

I understand Latin mottoes are far more popular among European soccer clubs, but here in the US the Chicago Cubs have an unofficial Latin motto stationed on one of the rooftops overlooking the ballpark (buildings overlooking the park rent their rooftop space for gameday parties):

Eamus Catuli

The numbers on the right indicate the total years since the Cubs last won the division (03), pennant (61), and World Series (98); this photo was therefore taken in 2006.

If anyone has a link to photos of other sports-related Latin, send it my way ("Contact the admin” email link at bottom of page).


Permalink 08:42:33 am, by Chris Jones Email , 251 words, 2658 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

Semibovemque virum, semivirumque bovem

The UK Times columnist William Rees-Mogg has written a column on the Human Fertilisation and Embryology Bill winding thru the House of Commons.

In discussing amendments related to animal-human hybrid cloning, Mr. Rees-Mogg quotes Ovid:

It is true that the scientists are asking only for experimentation in the laboratory; there will be no animal-human embryos implanted in a human or animal mother, let alone taken to term. There will be nothing such as Ovid describes in one of the worst lines in Latin poetry: “Semibovemque virum, semivirumque bovem.” That means “A man, half ox, an ox, half man.”

That line is from the Ars Amatoria II.24 (Ovid is describing the mythical Minotaur locked up by Daedalus in the Labyrinth). In calling it one of the worst lines in Latin poetry, Mr. Rees-Mogg echoes a story told by Seneca the Elder (Controversiae II.2.12):

Naso…(est) rogatus aliquando ab amicis suis, ut tolleret tres versus, invicem petit, ut ipse tres exciperet, in quos nihil illis liceret. Aequa lex visa est: Scripserunt illi quos tolli vellent secreto, hic quos tutos esse vellet. In utrisque codicillis idem versus erant

The line quoted is one of the three his friends wanted to remove but that the poet considered essential. Seneca uses this story to explain the difference between Ovid’s use of language as an orator and a poet:

Verbis minime licenter usus est, non (ut) in carminibus, in quibus non ignoravit vitia sua sed amavit.

A fair lesson; poetry can sometimes benefit from a few blemishes…


Permalink 09:41:14 am, by Chris Jones Email , 130 words, 1415 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games, Education

Mens plena pulte

A bit off-topic, but this NYT article on professors using the web to reveal personal details to students was a thought-provoker. As it points toward a general trend of humanizing professors, I’m all for it. Sure, John Houseman won an Oscar for his role in “The Paper Chase", but these days that kind of austere figure is best viewed from a distance.

Students come into classrooms far more savvy about the world than, say, 30 years ago. They are not “a mind full of mush", and even if you think they do it does no good to tell them that out loud. Now, that’s no reason to act like the clownish Robin Williams in “Dead Poet’s Society", but students deserve better than a cold recitation of facts from an unapproachable sage.


Permalink 11:39:53 am, by Chris Jones Email , 446 words, 1601 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

Ex libris

All Latinists collect books, some quite rare and old (they just don’t write those grand texts anymore). And I have occasionally wondered what will happen to these precious volumes on that day far, far in the future when I’m called to the great library in the sky.

But unlike Dr. Beard, I’d be quite happy to see them pass into the hands of people who wanted them, regardless of how “ghastly” the process seemed. As long as they are read and not sold as rarities. When I was a kid I read comic books, and comic book conventions were a great thrill. With a pocketful of quarters to blow on old 10-cent comics, I’d buy enough to keep me reading for weeks. But as I grew older, I began to realize the vast majority of people at these conventions never bothered to read the books they bought; they had become “collectibles", mere acquisions, and whatever thrilling spark that drew these folks to comics in the first place had died long before. I thought it was a little sad, and never went back to comics, partly because I was afraid something like that might happen to me.

I have acquired Latin books that have extensive margin notes from previous readers–some nearly 100 years old–that make the struggle of reading something of a shared experience. I have literally gasped to find a pristine text in the corners of a rundown bookstore marked only with a scandalously cheap handwritten price on the inside cover–that’s how I got the $3 Bradley’s Arnold I keep in my nightstand. And who wouldn’t enjoy the most delicious scraps of opinion buried in the notes of some of these texts, words that comment as much about the editor’s own times as they do the Latin (that Bradley’s Arnold–with stark 19th-century opinions about how to write Latin prose–is a good example)?

I read and often reread them all; I would never see them sealed in protective plastic. I have an edition of Virgil from 1823 that I often check for text and commentary. Some of the pages are falling out (I keep a rubber band around it), and I have marked variant readings in at some places. But this is what books are for; what good does it do if it remains unopened? That’s like buying a fine dinner in an expensive restaurant just to impress your friends with the receipt, letting the food itself lie on the plate and rot.

My hope is that someday far from now someone might smile at one of my own jottings next to an underlined word. I suppose I’ll have to see to that myself someday…


Permalink 03:56:21 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 173 words, 3584 views   English (US)
Categories: Vocabulary and Grammar, Fun & Games


This feature article on language from a newspaper in Carson City, NVCanon City, CO takes a look at sesquipedalian words in the English language. Excluding chemical names or satirical words coined simply for their length, “Floccinaucinihilipilification” is at the top of the list.

Latinists of course will spot four Latin words embedded in this lexical leviathan: Flocci, nauci, nihili and pili. All of these are genitives of value derived from the following nouns;

Floccus - “tuft of wool”
naucum - “trifle”
nihil - “nothing”
pilus - “(strand of) hair”

The Romans routinely employed these genitives to refer to something of little significance (naucum in fact is only found as a genitive of value in classical times). Usually these words (except nihili) were paired with a negative to indicate something was not even worth this much, e.g. homo timidus nauci non erit (Plautus, Mostella V.1.1); (intellectum est) totam rem publicam flocci non facere (Cicero, Ad Atticum IV.15.4 , complaining to his friend about the latest bribed jury).

Knowing all this, the definition of floccinaucinihilipilification should not surprise you…


Permalink 01:37:03 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 192 words, 4812 views   English (US)
Categories: Lost in Translation, Fun & Games

Diffugere Nives...

There realy should be a lex caelorum that forbids Winter from encroaching on the first Spring month of March. Until then, perhaps a few lines from Horace will clear the winter blues (Carmina IV.7.1-4):

Diffugere nives, redeunt iam gramina campis
arboribus comae;
mutat terra vices et decrescentia ripas
flumina praetereunt;

The Asclepiad meter of this poem has always sounded perfect to me (I personally can never remember which is the 1st, 2nd, greater, lesser, or whatever Asclepiad; I just always listen for the long-short-short-long pattern present in all these forms). Note for example how diffugere (= diffugerunt) struggles thru those first three syllables before the last rushes into nives and a natural stop in the line. More striking is how the first four long syllables of et decrescentia lead into the rushed ending -ia, as if the word itself–like the rivers it describes–is “decreasing” or “losing strength". Both instances capture in sound the inexorable idea of ice and snow melting away.

Repeat the lines as you survey the cold that lingers outside your window; perhaps this incantation will, in turn, bid Maia Maiestas and her brood to arrive a little sooner.


Permalink 01:02:01 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 9 words, 1473 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Bonus Natalis

For the Latinist celebrating a birthday…Roman Numeral Candles.


Permalink 04:49:43 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 141 words, 3454 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Lost in Translation, Fun & Games

Latin Loophole

Usually people avoid Latin as a spoken language, but the world-famous Eisteddfod Welsh arts and cultural festival–which normally requires all staged performances to be done in Welsh–allows performers to speak Latin if a setting of the Mass is performed onstage.

This year the cultural festival will include a concert featuring Verdi’s Requiem Mass, which will allow more international singing stars–who may be completely unfamiliar with Welsh but can fake Latin thanks to a familiarity with the Romance languages–to perform at the Eisteddfod this year. Ticket sales are apparently brisk, but there is some backlash.

I just think it’s amusing that the tables are turned, with Latin now apparently the more “relevant” language (in terms of festival attention). I don’t intend that as a slam against Welsh; I’m just a Latinist basking in an unusual turn of events.


Permalink 12:13:04 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 54 words, 1410 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games, Modern Latin

More Vicipaedia

In flipping thru Vicipaedia this morning, I thought I’d check on how fast the updates move in. The entry on Fidelis Castro now contains the following text (I didn’t add it):

Die 19 Februarii 2008 Castro nuntiavit se a omnibus muneribus removere.

Considering this was just announced this morning, that’s pretty quick for a “dead” language…

Permalink 02:26:02 am, by Chris Jones Email , 180 words, 3129 views   English (US)
Categories: Announcements, Fun & Games

Old Mnemonics

Over the years I’ve come across more than a few crutches used by Latin students to remember details of the language they’re studying. One in particular from my own long-lost youth:

“After si, nisi, numquid, ne,
all the ali’s run away”

The idea is to remind you that after one of these four conjunctions, a word like qui, quae, quod, quis, or quid is better translated as if it were aliqui, aliquae, aliquod, aliquis, or aliquod. An example can be found in Cicero’s opening line to his oration Pro Archia: Si quid est in me ingeni… - (lit.) “if there is something of talent in me…”

I’ve learned recently that at least one series of older textbooks came up with a whole assortment of these “concocted rhymes” (for lack of a better term). Some of them are quite elaborate, in some cases more work that it’s worth for the thing you’re trying to remember.

A little digging is in order. I’ll post some of the cuter ones when I find them, but I invite you to put your favorites in comments…


Permalink 02:35:50 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 778 words, 9057 views   English (US)
Categories: Lost in Translation, Literature, Fun & Games

V-Day Antidote - Ovid, Amores III.2

Ovid concludes our week of antidotes to the false sentimentality of Valentine’s Day. It’s a tall order, because a lot of Ovid’s love poetry is a comic vision of romance not much removed from modern television sitcoms. But his poems–like sitcoms–were incredibly popular in their age, and it would take a hard cynic to insist there is no room for a playful approach to affairs of the heart.



Permalink 08:52:16 am, by Chris Jones Email , 186 words, 3491 views   English (US)
Categories: Lost in Translation, Fun & Games, My Own Latin

Circa Te

When my daughter was an infant, I would sing her the Carpenter’s some Close to You (Youtube videolyrics) as a lullaby. Every night. For close to two years. Needless to say, I had plenty of time to develop a Latin translation:

Cur statim prodiunt aves,
quandoque tu ades?
Sicut me, student esse
circa te.

Cur stellae cadunt de caelis,
quocumque graderis?
Sicut me, student esse
circa te.

Die tui natalis
Angeli contulerunt
Somnium cernentes parere verum;
Tibi pulvis lunae in flavam,
in caesios lux jacta siderum.

Quamobrem quique urbis vir
Undique sequitir (causa homoeoteleuti pretiosi ;) )
Sicut me, student esse
circa te.

When I posted this on the Latin Forum last year, I got quite a bit of feedback on sicut me - “just like me". May posters felt this should be sicut ego, since the comparison is with the nominative subject “they” of student. I’ll agree that’s a better grammatical choice, but I defended the accusative me as a pronoun in opposition with an implied se in the phrase student (se) esse. Perhaps not best, but it preserves the rhythm, rhyme, and “grammaticity” (?) of the original.


Permalink 10:48:16 am, by Chris Jones Email , 395 words, 6904 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

Testum Pontus Veratis?!?

I caught an interview on the BBC’s The World this week with Trevor Paglin, author of the book I Could Tell You But Then You Would Have to Be Destroyed by Me.



Permalink 11:14:21 am, by Chris Jones Email , 297 words, 6185 views   English (US)
Categories: Lost in Translation, Literature, Fun & Games

More on States' Mottoes

In Rebus noted the classical origins of the North Carolina state motto Esse quam videri. Quite a few US state mottoes have a classical origin:



Permalink 01:13:54 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 340 words, 2524 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Vocabulary and Grammar, Fun & Games

What's Latin for "Super Bowl"?

Today the American Nationalis Liga Pedifollis holds it’s final contest of the season, Super Bowl XLII, pitting the undefeated New England patrios against the underdog New York Giants.



Permalink 02:21:22 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 883 words, 5758 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

Lucan Manuscript - pt. 2

Lucan Manuscript (opens in a new window).

We got thru an overview and the first line in part 1; let’s move on to the rest of the introduction in part 2.



Permalink 11:44:47 am, by Chris Jones Email , 692 words, 5780 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

Lucan Manuscript - pt. 1

Lucan Manuscript (opens in a new window).

We’ll start the survey with a brief look at the handwriting. Paleographers are often able to date manuscripts to within 50 years of composition and make a good guess at writing-location just from the details of the script. Unfortunately I’m not a paleographer, so for this post I’ll confine my comments to a general survey.



Permalink 02:50:56 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 264 words, 5681 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Vocabulary and Grammar, Fun & Games

Buy a vowel

I came across the following passage in Ovid a few weeks ago, where he describes a ring he’d just given to a girlfriend:



Permalink 10:08:48 am, by Chris Jones Email , 34 words, 1611 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

"It’s hard to tear yourself away."

h/t to the ARTL blog for finding this delightful article from the Sunday Times OnLine travel section. A self-confessed “Helicopter Parent” takes her pre-teen sons to Pompeii as an incentive to learn Latin.


Permalink 12:31:06 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 107 words, 1409 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Literature, Fun & Games

Latin Odds & Ends

Stuff I’ve run across that doesn’t really deserve to be posted…

* The Lost television show has spun-off a video game with a Latin title: Via Domus (obligatory reminder here that domus is a 4th declension noun).

* Laura Gibbs is posting Roman Sudoku puzzles from her book. The puzzles use Roman numerals, and there’s a little Latin here as well.

* Italian art museums are beginning to get results on their efforts toward the return of stolen antiquities currently on display in American museums. This particular article is about the Euphronios Krater–the subject of a three-decade long legal battle–but some details on other cases are also included.


Permalink 04:01:47 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 99 words, 3042 views   English (US)
Categories: Lost in Translation, Literature, Fun & Games

Ut it tempus

In this article on Love in ancient Rome, Professor Judith Hallet at the University of Maryland offers a Latin translation of a well-known love song from the movies:

Haec sunt memoranda, manent suspiria, basia longius.

Pertinet mos veterrimus, ut it tempus.
Et cum amant duo, iterant “Te amo",

Fies certissimus,
Pertinet mos veterrimus, ut it tempus.
Amores, luna, numquam senescent;

Fervida corda semper invident;
Femina virque sese coniungent,
Fies certissimus.

Eadem fabula, amor cum gloria, dulcis et decorus.
Amantes fovet hic mundus, ut it tempus.

You have about four weeks ’til Valentine’s day, if you plan to use it…


Permalink 10:40:06 am, by Chris Jones Email , 232 words, 1348 views   English (US)
Categories: Vocabulary and Grammar, Fun & Games

They is right

Saw This discussion from the OED people about the use of “they” as a singular stand-in for “he/she".

It got me to thinking about how English as a living language is adaptable to change. A hundred years ago the use of “he” to refer to any generic person was completely acceptable. Now as society has become more sensitive to gender issues, native speakers feel their language should reflect this new sensitivity, and they don’t like the clumsy “he or she". The grammar adapts to meet a new social need (N.B.: As the Oxford site points out, even Shakespeare occasionally used “they” in this way–especially if the noun referred to implied a collective–but I think we can agree the modern usage is far more widespread).

Latin does not have this specific problem–eius and suus, -a, -um in isolation are not specific to he/she/it. But the lack of native speakers means the grammar has ossified. Modern Latin writing is routinely compared to an imagined “1st-century Roman” speaker’s ability to understand and appreciate the language. That paradigm can lead to difficulties in modern tranlation; there’s a good example at the Latin Forum of such a problem when translating the odd English expression “It is what it is".

I’m not advocating one way or another, but it’s probably an issue Latinists should ponder a bit more than they do.


Permalink 09:00:04 am, by Chris Jones Email , 87 words, 1480 views   English (US)
Categories: Announcements, News, Fun & Games


Things like this have always struck me as a little silly. I doubt Mr. Mount is serious, but if someone insists that you must use a Latin declension to properly form the plural of a word introduced by a Japanese automobile manufacturer, kindly point this peantic fool to the door. The plural of Prius is Priuses until a different term is adopted by common assent. The idea that such a thing can be dictated and Latin used to give it a sheen of authority is just ridiculous.


Permalink 06:57:43 am, by Chris Jones Email , 125 words, 3454 views   English (US)
Categories: Announcements, Literature, Fun & Games

Halfway There...

As you slog through this long winter, take heart from this short passage in Ovid’s Fasti (I.459-60). Ovid planned this work as a celebration of notable dates in the Roman calendar (he only made it thru half the year), and he has the following couplet for January 10th:

Postera lux hiemem medio discrimine signat,
aequaque praeteritae quae superabit erit.

Ovid says Postera lux because he just completed a lengthy story about the festival of the Agonalia, which occurred on the 9th. Take quae superabit as the subject of erit; aequa…praeteritae is a poetic construction where the dative completes the meaning as it does with the adjectives par or similis. I’m assuming the feminine quae here refers to hiems (or perhaps more correctly pars hiemis).


Permalink 12:47:33 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 81 words, 1202 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

Harry Mount on NPR

British author Harry Mount (author of Carpe Diem…) was on a recent edition of NPR’s “All Things Considered"; you can listen to the ~5 min. interview here.

It’s a short piece, so Mount doesn’t get much further than a few anecdotes (I didn’t know about Angelina Jolie’s tattoo; will have to find that on-line and post). The piece closes with a few bars from the Finnish academic Dr Jukka Ammondt, who translated and sang the King’s 1960 #1 hit Nunc hic aut numquam in 2006.


Permalink 08:44:50 am, by Chris Jones Email , 422 words, 4940 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Vocabulary and Grammar, Fun & Games

If only all politicians were this thrifty...

Take a little time this New Year’s Eve to raise a toast to Gaius Caninius Rebilius, one of the shortest-tenured leaders in Roman history.



Permalink 09:30:40 am, by Chris Jones Email , 17 words, 1353 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Latin Christmas Carols

An oldie but a goodie; pour over these while you’re sipping (lots and lots of) eggnog tonight…


Permalink 08:00:00 am, by Chris Jones Email , 268 words, 3930 views   English (US)
Categories: Announcements, Fun & Games

Donum Nativitatis

Light posting (if at all) over the next week or so (I’ll be celebrating the holidays with family and friends scattered throughout the midwest).

Over the past year, I composed a Latin translation of Clement Clarke Moore’s “A Visit from St. Nicholas’ ("‘Twas the night before Christmas…"), and included it in Xmas cards this season. Link here (warning: ~400KB pdf) if you would like a copy; the poem is written in elegiac couplets, and it’s a pretty entertaining and faithful effort even if I do say so myself. The pictures are taken from a 19th-century illustrated copy of the poem; the artist is F. O. C. Darley, a well-know Victorian illustrator.

Note that the macrons in the text are not used in the standard way. Here they indicate the “ictus syllable” of each poetic foot. The idea is that if you tap your foot during proper recitation, you should hit an ictus syllable with each tap. This crutch forces you to pronounce short syllables more quickly and highlight the caesura in the elegiac distich. I’ve also taken the trouble of pointing out elisions with a short underline between the end of an elided syllable and the next word (which of course starts with a vowel); naturally the final syllables before an elision mark are not pronounced (or at least slurred into the next). I’ve found textual aids like these are an immense help to readers new to oral recitation, and like all poetry the poem is best appreciated when heard aloud.

Print a copy or distribute it however you like, just don’t sell it. Felix Nativitas vobis omnibus!


Permalink 05:52:34 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 22 words, 1389 views   English (US)
Categories: News, Fun & Games

Bloggerus Fastidious

In this month’s Scientific American you’ll find a short hommage to Carl Linnaeus’ genu/species Latin taxonomical system, which turns 250 next year.


Permalink 03:34:21 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 484 words, 3841 views   English (US)
Categories: Fun & Games

Scrambled Virgil

A game in which I take a line from Virgil, rearrange the words in alphabetical order, and you get the chance to use your knowledge of Latin poetry to determine the original line.



Permalink 01:39:07 pm, by Chris Jones Email , 251 words, 4398 views   English (US)
Categories: Literature, Fun & Games

All-noun lines

I quoted a few lines from Juvenal in this post that contain something of a curiosity. The final line reads:

fiunt urceoli, pelues, sartago, matellae

With the exception of the linking verb fiunt, this line contains all nouns in the nominative case.

This curio led me to look for poetic lines that are made up entirely of nouns (at least four). Virgil has a perfect example in Aeneid XII.362-4:

huic comitem Asbyten coniecta cuspide mittit
Chloreaque Sybarimque Daretaque Thersilochumque
et sternacis equi lapsum ceruice Thymoeten.

As an aside, note the diastole (unusual lengthening) of the first -que. The Gildersleeve and Lodge grammar (784 N.6) remarks that “Virgil…lengthens que sixteen times, but only when que is repeated in the verse and before a double consonant (except A. III.91).” Apparently they missed this one, or the Greek name of the 2nd town once began with a zeta.

Another example is found in the descent into the underworld, where Anchises describes to Aeneas the future cities to be founded by the kings of Alba Longa (VI.754-5)

Hi Collatinas imponent montibus arces,
Pometios Castrumque Inui Bolamque Coramque;

though here I must take Castrum Inui to be a compound name. There is also a close match in Ovid’s Metamorphoses (II.220-1), from the scene where Phaeton’s solar car is out of control:

ardet in inmensum geminatis ignibus Aetne
Parnasosque biceps et Eryx et Cynthus et Othrys

though the line is spoiled by biceps - “twin-peaked". If anyone can come up with other examples, please feel free to comment.

Qui sciet quae quoque sint modo dicenda, nisi tamen in procinctu paratamque ad omnis casus habuerit eloquentiam, velut clausis thesauris incubabit.

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