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AWADmail Issue 49September 23, 2001
A Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages
From: Donatella Fedrighini (fedriciacATyahoo.it)
I am Italian and a conference interpreter; no wonder, therefore, that I should be interested in the evolution of Latin words and expressions.
I've always known that in your language "Quid pro quo" means what you rightly explained in today's AWAD. But it just so happens that in Italian the first word of the locution has remained what it was in Latin originally, and the phrase means, therefore, a different thing altogether.
The original wording, in medieval Latin, was "Qui pro quo", which means literally taking "qui" for "quo"; i.e., a mix-up. Hence "misunderstanding". And that is what it means in Italian: a misunderstanding.
P.S. Qui pro quo (or "quiproquo") in Italian does not take a plural.
From: Rosemary Kneipp (r.kneippATlibertysurf.fr)
I always find it interesting to see how the same words - even Latin expressions - evolve differently in different languages.
The French have a very common expression "quiproquo" which comes from medieval Latin "quid proquo" (1452) "something in return for something" but which nowadays means a "misunderstanding", in which something or someone is taken for something or someone else, and the resulting situation.
From: Roberto Guzman (guzhoffATbellsouth.net)
In Spanish the famous Academy registers this phrase in its Dictionary as "equivocal." It was used in comedies to mention or remark how various characters could differently interpret the same facts, while thinking all along that each interpretation of the facts was the same.
Also, the Academy interprets the phrase to mean "when a thing is exchanged by another one." The last entry is this: "the error consisting of taking one person or thing for another one." I would add that the usage in Spanish is more often as equivalent to "error" than anything else.
From: Rhonda Stroud (rstroudATqwest.net)
I recall one of my history professors telling the class about his friend, who taught the late Middle Ages and Early Modern Period of Spanish history. My professor didn't know Spanish and had no great desire to learn yet another language, and his counterpart felt the same way about American English, but they quickly discovered that both knew Latin and they corresponded for 30 years in Latin! So perhaps the reports of Latin's death, like Mark Twain's, have been great exaggerated!
From: Matt Powell (mister_asparagusAThotmail.com)
One of my friends has as his tag line the phrase "quidquid latine dictum sit, altum viditur". ("Anything is more impressive if you say it in Latin")
From: Vincent deLuise, MD (eyemusic73ATaol.com)
Thank you for highlighting Latin this week. I have had a long abiding interest in Latin etymologies in English, following five years of Latin in high school, many years ago. I actually began a Latin Club with my daughter's sixth grade class a few years back. Two phenomenal books that your readership would enjoy are _Latina Pro Populo_ (Latin for the People) by Alexander and Nicholas Humez, and _Latin Phrases and Quotations_ by Richard Branyon, the latter a compendium of Latin phrases and bon mots we use (or should use more often) in English. Remember what Horace penned about his poetry, and by extension his language, that he created a "monumentum aere perennius", a "monument more permanent than bronze."
From: Ginger Chamberlain (chamberlain_gingerATbah.com)
Below are some of my favorite contemporary Latin phrases:
From: Timothy J. Shea II (tjs2ATmediaone.net)
One of my faves from the legal world is "nunc pro tunc" (now for then), used when you execute a document at a later date than the effective date of the document or take an action at a date later than the effective date of the action. A legal fiction that is often quite handy!
From: Jane Lantz (lantz.janeATmayo.edu)
As for Latin's being a dead language, Miss Eloise Birney, my high school Latin teacher, used to say in response to that sort of comment, "You should live so long!"
Miss Birney's influence on my education was so powerful that I went on to major in Latin in college and have used my education almost every day of my long working life as a medical editor.
From: Ron Gilbertson (glbrtsnrATkingston.net)
In the earlier part of the Twentieth Century, in the County of Caithness in the north of Scotland, great excitement arose when a pot (or part thereof) was discovered, apparently stemming from the Roman occupation of Britain. It was exciting because there was no archaeological evidence up to that point of the Romans having been that far north. The local newspaper, The Caithness Courier, gave prominence to the find, and quoted in full the inscription on the artifact. It was ITI SAPIS SPOTANDA BIGO NE. The Courier never lived down its naivete.
From: Paul Burke (umbertwoATearthlink.net)
Rebecca mead in an article about Latin scholar Luigi Miraglia in the 9/17/01 issue of The New Yorker quotes several wonderful Latin phrases of Miraglia's, two of which may be of use to computer-Latin devotees:
From: Garth (garthATemirates.net.ae)
I teach at a school and we're doing a play (student scripted) - It's a spoof on television talk-shows. What we're looking for is a Latin motto for 'Watch at your own peril'. Would any of our readers know this? Thanks for any help forthcoming,
From: Minna Choe (mchoeATadobe.com)
This is the second word I've seen recently from AWAD that was used in Disney's Lion King movie. Quid pro quo was used in Scar's song "Be Prepared" when he told his followers: "Of course, quid pro quo, you're expected to take certain duties on board." Also the recent AWAD word, jugular, was also used in the movie when Simba came to the rescue right before a female lion (Nala) was about to catch Timon and Puumba. Timon yells out to Simba, "Get her! Go for the jugular!" I wonder if all the kids who watched this movie knew what these words meant. Even my husband had asked me what certain phrases in the movie meant, such as, "Ix-nay on the oopid-stay...," and I gave him a quick intro to pig Latin. (For those of you around the world who have never heard of pig Latin, the phrase translates to "Nix on the stupid.")
From: Ken Quam (ksquamATstellarnet.com)
The Satyricon by Petronius contains the phrase "manus manum lavat" or "one hand washes another". Only three words from a guest at Trimalchio's banquet.
From: Otto Steinmayer (ottoATtm.net.my)
Re Annus Mirabilis, the phrase has entered English because it was the title John Dryden gave to a poem he wrote described the events of 1666. These included a naval war with the Dutch, and the terrible Fire of London.
When was it -- six years ago? -- that Windsor Palace was badly damaged by a fire and much other bad stuff happened to the British royal family, and Queen Elizabeth II described that year as an "annus horribilis." Thereby 1) she demonstrated a commendable knowledge of English literature, and 2) a pretty good grasp of Latin style. "Annus horribilis" ought to mean "a hair-raising year." That it was.
From: Vicky Go (maria_victoria.goATroche.com)
There's another Latin word, less commonly used to describe a 'rare bird' - "sui generis" - unique, in a class by itself, peculiar. Maybe, even - "the last of its breed"? It happens to be much more limiting than 'rara avis' Say Joe DiMaggio might have been a 'rara avis' but Jimmy Durante was 'sui generis'!
From: Becky Helgesen (becky.helgesenATpca.state.mn.us)
Let me add one more thank you to those in other nations who took the time to write in to AWAD. It helped make this dark time a little brighter. Although we American people are sometimes too self-centered, we honestly do try to be generous and thoughtful to others. I know now we can look to all of you as our role models in this effort.
When I was a child, my grandfather would end all family celebrations-- religious or otherwise--with a rousing rendition of the song "America the Beautiful." We kids thought it was silly and corny. But he always said, "don't ever forget how fortunate you are to live in this country, even though our country makes many mistakes. You can disagree with anyone you want and no one arrests you; you can become educated no matter who you are--even if you're poor or a girl!--and, when the system doesn't work, you stand at least some chance of making it work if you try." Although he died about 20 years ago, our family has continued the tradition of singing this song at the end of all celebrations.
Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people. -William Butler Yeats, poet, dramatist, essayist, Nobel laureate (1865-1939)