Monday, April 2, 2012

Latin ribaldry and revelry

[At this point,  Lent feels  not so much like a time of penitential contemplation, as a joyously anticipatory countdown to the Resurrection.  But whatever the truth of the matter, it is a contingent fact, that both I, and my spiritual advisor -- and mentor as regards all things Latin -- are well into our cups -- cups brimming with the blushful.  Here therefore, for your delectation, an exchange anent that noble tongue, from Dr J to Dr K …]

Q: I am reading -- well, pecking-away at reading, a paragraph at a time, over a period of years (the period having begun back in graduate school) --
a rather odd book by one Russell Fraser, The Language of Adam.
He alludes to (while not clarifying) a distinction  brought forth by Thomas More, between
   Leo animali est fortior
  Leo est fortior animali.

Surely none but the Boeotians would confuse the two !
But for the benefit of the innocent villagers... Can you clarify ???

Saint and Martyr

A: More's claim is a bit of sophistry that grammar and logic do not fully support. By his interpretation, Leo est fortior animali would mean "The Lion is braver than (all) animals." And since the lion is himself an animal, the statement is false by definition. Leo animali est fortior, More accepts as a way to state that "The Lion is braver than (all other) animals."
In fact, the fluidity of Latin word order makes the two equivalent and the plain meaning of either one is, of course, that the Lion is the Bravest Animal of All.

All that said, Saint Thomas More, pray for me, a sinner.

~     ~     ~

[Update 3 April 2012]  The festival continues!
For all you fans of the slightly-august Romulus -- a sort of “mini-me” of Roman history --  this is what you’ve been waiting for:

A tale of pity and terror.

A handsome fellow, overall; pity about the chin

~     ~     ~

[More of the sort of japery that Keith and I toss back and forth, when we’ve had a few.   
These obiter dicta are offered  much in the spirit of the graffiti of Pompei, as an aid to future scholars of the demotic -- of KAM and WDJ …]

Sjt:   Latin declension

J: (I always know that you will respond promptly to any note with such a subject line.
The hand halts in mid-lift, halfway to the lips, and sets the wineglass down.  First things first!)

Would the following be a possible equivalent for   "On the Perfection of Heavenly Penguins":

    Paradisii de perfectione pinguinorum

The question concerns not only the case-endings, but the word-order:  'twere precellent, were "Paradisii" out in front.

The title, as you are doubtless aware, is that of a lost book of St Thomas, from which I hope to quote in future postings.

K: If you want "heavenly" to be an adjective, it will have to be in the genitive plural to match its noun. The best adjective will be caelestis, genitive plural caelestium.

It looks like you really wanted an initial p. If you want "Of Paradise concerning the perfection of penguins" the genitive singular of paradisus is paradisi. But I don't think that's going to naturally be interpreted as a genitive of quality modifying penguins.

   Caelestium de perfectione pinguinorum

is the best.

J: I really wanted "penguins of Paradise" -- i.e., the ones that live there, rather than simply describing sublunary penguins as "heavenly".
I just said "heavenly penguins" in English for the assonance.

How about
            De perfectione paradisi pinguinorum
            De perfectione pinguinorum paradisi

K:  My sense is that the second will be best grammatically because the first assumption is that the following genitive is what's perfected. When another genitive follows, the assumption is that it's something 'of' the other item.

De perfectione pinguinorum paradisi

This is good.


J: > "This is good."

(Quoth God, on each of the seven days.)

The Celestial Penguins  are obliquely mentioned here:

(Note:  As always, I'm joking-but-not-joking.  Father Schall speaks quite casually, in passing, of angels.
The Celestial Penguins are ontologically akin.)

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