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1001 deeds, sayings, curiosities and anecdotes of the ancient world

Let us quote correctly the Latin phrases, so concise and expressive, and that give so much cultural prestige.

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“Urbi et orbi” is a Latin phrase constituted by two words related to each other by a copulative conjunction, that is united. It turns out that many Latin words, including nouns, have different forms or cases that differ by their termination; "" Casus "after all comes to mean" fall, termination ". In concrete these two words end in -i and for that reason we say that they are in "dative" case.

All this is elementary Latin grammar and anyone who knows this and nothing else can understand that if we modify the terminations of some words, the nouns between them, we are changing their function, and consequently the meaning.

Well, the previous phrase "urbi et orbi" means "for the city (that is Rome) and for the world (which is the remaining world)" and that is its meaning because the two end in -i.

The phrase applies literally to one of the messages issued by the Pope, who is the bishop of Rome and Father of all Catholic Christendom, when he addresses them to the faithful of Rome and the whole world and gives them plenary indulgence for their sins. But in reality the phrase applies by extension to every message issued by anyone and addressed to all men. In a second article I will comment more on the origin of this expression.

Well, it is very pleasant for those who love and enjoy with the Latin language to meet people who use Latin phrases in all types of writings, comments and conversations. Cervantes called them in Spanish "latinicos" (coloquial Latin) in the Prologue of the first part of his work "Don Quixote” and some call them with a certain contemptuous tone "latinajos", bad Latin.

Now, in the same proportion, it is profoundly unpleasant to encounter poorly constructed Latin phrases, which make elementary linguistic and grammatical errors, such as not respecting proper termination.

A few days ago I heard in the mouth of a frequent and abundant tertullian of one of the various television channels in Spain to pronounce with the aplomb of the ignorant "urbi et orbe", thus, finished the last in -e. And the same error in a few days I found it in the pen of a well-known commentator, young promise, of an important Spanish newspaper. (I think foreign authors are more careful when it comes to quoting). But that poorly constructed sentence no longer means what people pretend to use it, if it can mean anything now.

Of course, the error comes from ignorance, no doubt; facilitated it by the fact that in Spanish there is the noun "orbe" and that leads them to the mistake of these "latinists" little careful.

If it is not possible to demand that all citizens to know elementary Latin, no matter how desirable it may be, we can demand that those who use prestigious Latin expressions should be minimally advised, that is, they should  look for any of the contrasting instruments which are now available to anyone.

But since today we go with grammatical conventions I take advantage to warn of other very frequent errors, as shocking as the previous one:

- - It is said "sensu stricto" and not "sensu strictu":
- "motu proprio" and not "motu propio": propius, without the -r- means closer
- "in dubio pro reo" and not "in dubium pro reo"
- "veni, vidi, vici" and not "vini, vidi, vinci"
- "morituri te salutant" and not "morituri te salutan" or "morituri te salutam"
- "sine nobilitate" (1)  and not "sine nobilitatis"

(1) I had not yet finished this article when I receive from another lover of Latin, via twitter, the information of another error, new for me so far, which now is perpretated by a government of town, by local government of Guadalupe, city of Spain, , with a public announcement  of a holiday very much rooted in Spain, "Corpus Christi", which the poster has transformed into "Corpus Christis", whose pronunciation would sound rather the name of a famous English auction house, "Christie's", but that can not refer to the belief of The Christians that the "host" of consecrated bread is actually the body of Christ.

(1). I will say as a curiosity, that precisely from the Latin expression "sine nobilitate" it comes the English term snob, s (ine) nob (ilitate), as Ortega y Gasset explained in "The revolt  of the masses", although dictionaries English, such as Oxford do not admit this origin and they are looking for a more indigenous.

I reproduce the paragraph of Ortega in which he refers to the term "snob", in which also he uses another Latinism, "idola fori"

This man-mass is the man previously emptied of his own history, without entrails of the past and, therefore, docile to all disciplines called "international". More than a man, it is only a shell of a man constituted by mere idola fori; It lacks an "inside", an intimacy of its own, inexorable and inalienable, of a self that can not be revoked. Hence he is always available to pretend to be anything. He has only appetites, believes that he has only rights and does not believe that he has obligations: he is the man without the nobility that obliges -sine nobilitate-, snob.

Note: In England the lists of neighbors indicated next to each name the office and rank of the person. For that reason, next to the name of the simple bourgeois the abbreviation s. nob appeared; that is, “sine nobilitate” “without nobility”. This is the origin of the word snob. (The Revolt of the Masses. “Prologue for the French” III. 1937)

By the way, "idola fori" is an Latin expression coined by Francis Bacon in his Novum Organum to refer to the imperfect correspondence between the definitions expressed in words in a language and the real thing they define.

We could extend without end the list of shocking errors if we observe the overflowing imagination of those who, over a well-constructed primitive Latin phrase, create others without regard to the rules of grammatical concordance.

So on the famous expression “delenda est Carthago", with which the very conservative and nationalist Cato ended  all his speeches, were over, whether or not, there are those who create similar ones of the type "delenda est parliament" (or whatever), when at least he could have said with a little imagination "delendum est parlamentum."

Or who  on "condicio (or conditio) sine qua non," which is typically juridical, he coins others of any meaning, such as "elements, instruments, circumstances ... sine qua non" when the relative "qua" is singular and feminine.

I take advantage of the previous idea to explain that in Latin "condicio" and "conditio" are two words of different origin, although in late Latin the word "conditio", which in classical Latin means "foundation", acquired the sense of "condition"; since the expression "conditio sine qua non" is characteristic of late Latin, it passed with  that form into modern languages; in reality "conditio sine qua non"  proves to be an anachronism or even hypercultism by converting a word from one  epoch to that of another.

I can not miss the opportunity to warn of other errors that occur in the accentuation of Latin words, in which inevitably the non-expert in Latin, tends to accentuate as his nationality.  This is aided by the fact that in Latin the graphic  accent is not used; It is not that there is no prosodic or tonic accent (from prosody from πρὸς- (pros = next to), and the root ᾠδή, oide = song), which is put in one syllable or another depending on its quantity or duration (There are long and short syllables) and this, that the ancients differentiated well  in some moments, for us it can  not be significant.

It should be noted, therefore, that it is said “Cármina Burána” and not  "Carmína Burana", that it  is said "álea iacta est" and not "aléa iacta est", "curriculum vítae" and not "curriculum vitáe", because I refer only to some of the errors that we often hear. The latter of accenting the -a of the diphthong -ae in final position of word is very generalized, violating the rule that in Latin there are no  words with acute accent, that is, with an accent on the last syllable.

I remember that in my youth there was in Spain an interesting satirical magazine called “La codorniz” (The Quail) and in it a section titled "The paper jail" to which was condemned him  who destroyed the language with their nonsense. There would be at least the violators of Latin grammar, condemning always more bearable than the "lions" of the amphitheater to those who probably would have been sent in the days of some maniacal emperor of language like Claudius, who came to invent three letters to transcribe some Greek sounds, although with little success, because after his death they stopped being used.

Perhaps I should apologize, on my part, to avoid the annoyance of those who have good and precise knowledge of Latin by correcting such elementary, but not infrequent and unnerving errors. They will certainly know how to apologize me.


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