Monday, July 19, 2010

Verbum Hodiernum: MATER

Today's word is mater, "mother." This is a word easy for English-speakers to learn and remember, and it is also one of those words that shows how closely related the words of different Indo-European languages can be: mother in English, mater in Latin, μήτηρ in Greek, мать in Russian, etc.

This is an extremely productive root in Latin, giving rise to such words as maternus (the adjectival form of mater), matercula (diminutive of mater), materfamilias (a word parallel in formation to paterfamilias), matrona (parallel to patronus), matrimonium (which gives us English "matrimony"), matertera (maternal aunt, as opposed to the paternal aunt, amita), materia (from which we get the word "material").

The related word matrix means, literally, a pregnant animal. Later on it came to mean the womb. The word matrix also means a source of information in the sense of a register or list, and from the diminutive, matricula, we get the English word "matriculation." In later Latin, the adjective matricalis meant something inventive or original, which is where we get the word "madrigal," meaning an ingenious type of musical song.

Here are some examples of today's word in Latin sayings and proverbs; for more information, see the page at the Scala Sapientiae, which contains notes on some of the proverbs cited below, as well as additional proverbs:

Natura rerum omnium mater.

Mater semper certa est, pater numquam.

Qualis mater, talis et filia.

Sicut mater, ita et filia eius.

Ut pater, ita filius; ut mater, ita filia.

Filius ut patri similis, sic filia matri.

Terra est communis mater omnium mortalium.

Mater bonarum artium est sapientia.

Voluptas malorum mater omnium.

Matris imago filia est.

Mater criminum necessitas.

Mater artium necessitas.

Nemo non formosus filius matri.

alma mater

Timidi mater non flet.

Mater timidi flere non solet.

Terra mater crescentium, nutrix viventium.

Luxuria avaritiae mater.

Honora patrem tuum et matrem tuam.

Luxuria inopiae mater.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Verbum Hodiernum: FLEO

Today's vocabulary word is the verb FLEO. As you can see, it is a second conjugation verb: fleo, flere, flevi, fletum. It means "to weep." The only English word I know from this Latin root is "feeble," from the Latin adjective flebilis, meaning something that is lamentable, something to weep over, although the English word now has a rather different meaning, referring to something weak or frail (English "frail" is from Latin fragilis).

Etymologically, the verb fleo is related to the verb fluo, fluere, meaning to flow (as in the word fluvius, etc.). So, it looks like flere means to let the tears flow.

Here are some examples of today's word in Latin sayings and proverbs; for more information, see the page at the Scala Sapientiae, which contains notes on some of the proverbs cited below:

Cum Deo quisque gaudet et flet.

Tempore gaudebis, mox post tua gaudia flebis.

Ride, cum tibi flendus eris.

Aut ridenda omnia aut flenda sunt.

Tempus flendi et tempus ridendi.

Beati qui nunc fletis, quia ridebitis.

Est quaedam flere voluptas.

Damna fleo rerum, sed plus fleo damna dierum.

Is ridet, qui cras flebit.

Vespere flet crebro, qui risit mane sereno.

Timidi mater non flet.

Mater timidi flere non solet.

Flere licet certe; flendo diffundimus iram.

Parce gaudebis, nam post tua gaudia flebis.

Vae tibi ridenti, nam mox post gaudia flebis!

Necessitatem ferre, non flere, addecet.

Ad novercae tumulum fles.

Ad novercae sepulcrum fles.

Postquam gaudebis, rursum post gaudia flebis.

O homo, si scires, quidnam esses, unde venires, numquam gauderes, sed in omni tempore fleres.

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Verbum Hodiernum: SIMUL

The word for today is the adverb SIMUL. This is immediately familiar to English speakers from the word "simultaneous." What is important about the Latin word is the many different ways in which it can be used in a sentence.

You can find it used as a temporal adverb for plurals nouns that are in action at the same time: multa concurrunt simul, as Terence says, or simul cenare voluerunt, in Cicero.

You can also find it used for a plural object of a verb, as when Plautus says of Alcmena: uno partu duos peperit simul.

You can find simul combined with the preposition cum to mean "together with," as, for example, when Terence says, simul consilium cum re amisti?

In addition, simul can be used with conjunctions such et, ac, atque, etc., as in this example from as in this phrase from Cicero: simul cupidus incepta patrandi et timore socii anxius (simul X et Y). Simul can also be used to refer to two entire coordinate clauses or sentences, as in this example from Sallust: equites ex equis desiliunt simulque et hosti se opponent.

Note also that the combination simul atque can be used as a subordinating conjunction by itself (and sometimes written as a single word, simulac). Here is an example from Cicero: simul atque increpuit suspicio tumultus, artes ilico nostrae conticescunt.

Likewise, simul can be used to coordinate two dependent clauses, as here in Quintilian: a sermone Graeco puerum incipere malo, quia Latinum vel nobis nolentibus perhibet, simul quia disciplinis quoque Graecis prius instruendus est.

Finally, simul can be used by itself to introduce an independent sentence, as in this example from Plautus: Sequimini! Simul circumspicite ne quis adsit arbiter.

Here are some Latin proverbs and sayings which feature this word:

Non possunt omnia simul.

Multa iuvant collecta simul.

Contraria simul esse non possunt.

Impossibile simul esse et non esse.

Hic esse et illic simul non possum.

Difficile est sorbere et simul flare.

Simul da, simul accipe.

Simul dictum, simul factum.

Non arabis in bove simul et asino.

Uterque nostrum idem simul trahit iugum.

Aves discolores raro simul volitant.

Concolores aves plerumque simul volitant.

Non habitant simul pudor et fames.

Fortuna simul cum moribus immutatur.

Nemo potest esse simul actor et iudex.

Accusare et iudicare simul fas non est.

Nemo potest dominis simul inservire duobus.

Amare simul et sapere vix deo conceditur.

Inventum simul et perfectum nihil est.

Melius est duos esse simul, quam unum.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Verbum Hodiernum: TALIS

Today's word is TALIS, the demonstrative adjective that correlates with the interrogative QUALIS. It's hard to translate this word into English since we do not have a correlative pair that works as neatly in English as talis-qualis in Latin. From qualis we get the word "quality" which is what this pair of words expresses in Latin: the such-ness or so-ness or this-ness or that-ness of something, what sort of thing something is.

The words are often used together in the same sentence as here:

You can also find talis used to introduced an ut clause, where the ut clause expresses the result of the quality expressed with talis, as in this bit of artful modesty from Cicero: Tales nos esse putamus, ut iure laudemur.

The word talis can also be used together with a relative clause which provides the specifications of just what sort of person or thing is being discussed. Here is a lovely rhyming example from Thomas's De Imitatione Christi: Ubi invenietur talis, qui velit Deo servire gratis?

In addition, the word talis can express a sense of the measure or extent of a quality, being used emphatically, something like the word tantus, as in these examples from Vergil: Dii, talem avertite casum! and Dii, talem terris avertite pestem!

As with many adjectives, the word talis can also be made into an adverb: taliter, "suchly" (if we had such a word in English), "thusly, in this sort of way."

Here are some examples of today's word in Latin sayings and proverbs; for more information, see the page at the Scala Sapientiae, which contains notes on some of the proverbs cited below, as well as additional proverbs:

Qualis pater, talis filius.

Qualis dux, talis miles.

Qualia dixeris, talia audies.

Qualis vis videri, talis esto.

Quales sumus, tales esse videamur.

Qualia verba viri, talis et ipse vir est.

Talia dicentur tibi, qualia dixeris ipse.

Non semper homo talis est, qualis dicitur.

Qualia quisque geret, talia quisque feret.

Tales simus, quales videri et haberi vellimus.

Qualis mater, talis et filia.

Vultu talis eris, qualia mente geris.

Qualis dominus, talis et servus.

Quales principes, tales populi.

Qualis homo, talis sermo.

Qualis sermo, talis vita.

Talis esto, qualis haberi cupis.

Verbum laudatur, si factum tale sequatur.

Facies qualis, mens talis.

Cum quo aliquis iungitur, talis erit.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Verbum Hodiernum: VIRTUS

The word of the day is VIRTUS, which gets my vote as the Latin word that is most absolutely impossible to translate into English. Of course, the English word "virtue" derives from the Latin word, just to make matters worse. The problem is that the word "virtue" in English has become so thoroughly a part of our own culture, with distinct meanings and connotations of its own, that using it to render Latin virtus is risky indeed.

Probably the key factor to keep in mind is the Latin etymology of the word: virtus is from vir, "man," and so it means, literally, "manliness" - which was, for the Romans, a core cultural value.

Here is the definition provided by the Lewis & Short dictionary: "the sum of all the corporeal or mental excellences of man, strength, vigor; bravery, courage; aptness, capacity; worth, excellence, virtue, etc."

Of course, not just men could have virtus - even the gods had it, as in the formal phrase deum virtute, "by the power of the gods" (deum = deorum).

Needless to say, there are hundreds and hundreds of Latin sayings and proverbs which feature the word virtus. Here are just a few of them:

Fulget virtus.

Post funera virtus.

Gloria virtutis umbra.

Virtus vincit.

Sola virtus invicta.

Domat omnia virtus.

Nihil virtuti invium.

Virtus unita valet.

Macte virtute!

Virum facit virtus.

In medio stat virtus.

Utere virtute.

Vitae via virtus.

Ad alta virtute.

Non vi, virtute.

Virtute, non verbis.

Virtute, non astutia.

Virtuti fortuna comes.

Spes in virtute.

Virtute securus.

Virtus mille scuta.

Labor prima virtus.

Nescit otiari virtus.

Pretium sibi virtus.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Verbum Hodiernum: TAMEN

Today's word is TAMEN, which is a Latin adverbial particle. In general, Latin particles get little or no attention in Latin textbooks, which is a shame because the range of particles commonly used in Latin is a really powerful means of expression. Students are usually taught to render these Latin particles with hyperliterary English words - tamen might emerge as "notwithstanding" or "nevertheless" - but these English words are simply not part of people's everyday spoken vocabulary. In Latin, however, these particles are common in both written and spoken language, being used to verbally punctuate where ideas stop and start and how they relate to each other.

The word tamen, for example, is generally used to indicate something that comes as a surprise. It lets your listeners know to brace themselves because something unexpected is coming up! In that sense, it is something like the word sed ("but"). There is an important difference, though/ The word sed is a conjunction and has an actual grammatical role in the sentence, coordinating two independent verbs. If you take sed out of a sentence, the sentence collapses and turns into two separate sentences. Tamen, on the other hand, is a particle. It is playing an expressive role in the sentence, not a grammatical one. In that sense, it is much like the extensive use we make of punctuation in written English. Punctuation is not part of the grammar of the sentence, but it helps us to understand the meaning of what is being expressed. So, if you take tamen out of the sentence, it does not change the grammar of the sentence; it just alters the meaning, removing one of the clues being given to the audience about the overall message of the sentence. It is something like removing the exclamation mark from the end of an English sentence. If you remove the exclamation mark, it does not change the grammar of the sentence - but it would alter the meaning in a subtle way.

So, if you don't believe me, just give that a try the next time you run into tamen. Take it out of the sentence and see what happens; you will see that the sentence is still, grammatically, in perfect shape. Then, instead of trying to translate it into English (which often has awkward results at best), use tamen as a clue to find out what is the SURPRISE in the sentence. If you can figure out what was the surprise, then you have figured out why the author included tamen in the Latin sentence, giving you a clue about what to find.

Here are some sayings with tamen for you to consider:

Omnia deficiunt; animus tamen omnia vincet.

Auctor abit operis, sed tamen extat opus.

Mutans locum, mores tamen mutat nihil.

Nimium dixit, nec tamen totum.

Idem duo cum faciunt, non tamen est idem.

Bona vincula nuptiarum, sed tamen vincula.

Nec iuga taurus amat; quae tamen odit, habet.

Si non caste, et tamen caute.

Si non ut volumus, tamen ut possumus.

Multi indigni luce sunt, et tamen dies oritur.

Quamvis sint modica, prosunt tamen omnia lucra.

Manus digiti conaequales non sunt, omnes tamen usui sunt.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Verbum Hodiernum: VALEO

Today's word is VALEO, which is perhaps best known from the Latin salutation, Ave atque vale, "Hail and farewell." The verb valere means to "fare well, be strong," etc. You can see the same root at work in the adjective validus, which also gives us the English "valid." Quite a few English words come from this root, as a matter of fact: prevail and countervail, for example, as well as valor and valiant. There is also the personal name Valerie; compare the Roman name Valerius.

You can use this verb in a variety of different constructions. With the preposition ad, it can mean "strong enough to do something," as in this statement by Cicero: alios videmus velocitate ad cursum, alios viribus ad luctandum valere.

It can also take the infinitive, as in this statement from Phaedrus's fable about the weasel and the mice: mustela cum mures veloces non valeret assequi.

Although the word can refer to all kinds of strength, it frequently refers to general physical well-being. For example, it is common to write at the beginning of a letter, si vales, bene est - which can be abbreviated to SVBE.

There is a wide range of metaphorical uses for this term, including the idea of monetary value. If you ask Quanti valet? you are asking how much something is worth, what is its value.

Here are some Latin sayings and proverbs using the verb valere:

Volo, sed non valeo.

Valere malo quam dives esse.

Infimus et servus quisque valere cupit.

Corpus valet, sed aegrotat crumena.

Res tantum valet quantum vendi potest.

Fodere non valeo, mendicare erubesco.

Non vivere, sed valere vita est.

Sine ope divina nihil valemus.

Deo non dante, nil valet labor.

Virtus unita valet.

Quae non valeant singula, iuncta iuvant.

Plus sonat quam valet.

Plus legibus arma valent.

Ut volunt reges, ita valent leges.

Ibi valet populus, ubi valent leges.

Plus valet humanis viribus ira dei.

Contra vim non valet ius.

Ratio contra vim parum valet.

Ratio fatum vincere nulla valet.

Fortuna plus quam consilium valet.

Testimonium unius non valet.

Plus valent oculi quam oculus.

Res plus valent quam verba.

Plus actum valet quam scriptum.

Plurimum valet gallus in aedibus suis.

Quot linguas calles, tot homines vales.

Recte valere et sapere, duo vitae bona.

Monday, July 5, 2010

Verbum Hodiernum: FATUM

What an exciting word to get started with after my book-writing break: it's FATUM, the Latin word that gives us English "fate."

The literal meaning of the Latin word is "that which is spoken," as it is the passive participle of the verb for, fari which means "to speak." The idea is that fatum is something spoken by the gods, an oracle or prediction with prophetic powers.

In particular, fatum could refer to an ill fate, an inevitable disaster or calamity, or death itself. In English, the word "fatal" (from the Latin adjective fatalis, "decreed by fate"), came to have the narrow meaning of causing death.

Of course, there is also a good sense of fate, too, which is where the name Boniface comes from, Bonifatius in Latin.

Sometimes fatum was personified in divine form as the Fates, Latin Fata (neuter plural). It is this Latin usage which ultimately gave rise to the English word "fairy" via the Old French rendering of the Latin fata as fae.

Here are some examples of today's word in Latin sayings and proverbs; for more information, see the page at the Scala Sapientiae, which contains notes on some of the proverbs cited below, as well as additional proverbs:

Agunt opus suum fata.

Fata viam invenient.

Omnia fato fiunt.

Sic erat in fatis.

Sua quemque sequuntur fata.

Ratio fatum vincere nulla valet.

Multi ad fatum venere suum, dum fata timent.

Curae cedit fatum.

Fatis agimur; cedite fatis.

Ducunt volentem fata, nolentem trahunt.

Ut fata trahunt.

Fata non servant ordinem inter senes et iuvenes.

Diverso tempore, diversa fata.

Fata regunt homines.

Regitur fatis mortale genus.

Mutari fata non possunt.

Iam Troiae sic fata ferebant.

Audacem iuvant fata.

Omnia fato eveniunt.

Habent et sua fata libelli.

Word Challenge: fata mea interrogo

Here are the words for the challenge - very heavy on verbs, and I have to choose all the nouns myself! quasi (adv.) - ago (agere) - interrogo (interrogare) - fugio (fugere) - pono (ponere). So, since the word of the day is fatum, that's what came to mind, and here's the result:
Fata mea interrogo: Quid agam? Vos dura et inexorabilia fugere non licet, sed scire volo quae futura mihi ponatis, prorsus quasi sciens non timeam.
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If you came up with something good for today's Vocabulary Challenge, share the results in a comment here at the blog! Meanwhile, here are my past answers to the Vocabulary Challenge each day.