Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Verbum Hodiernum: IPSE

Today's word is the marvelous little IPSE, which has no exact equivalent in English. It is an intensifying demonstrative adjective which is frequently used also as a pronoun. It can be used to express favor or distinction (something we cannot really do with pronouns in English), and also the emphatic sense of "very" or "selfsame." The best way to get a sense of how Latin ipse is used is simply by reading the Latin and looking at what the word adds to the meaning whenever it is used.

You also need to be familiar with the declension of ipse, which features the -ius ending in the genitive singular, ipsius, and the -i ending in the dative singular, ipsi. Its other forms follow the usual first and second declension endings. One fascinating thing about the adjectival ipse is that it can even take a superlative form, as you can see in this phrase: ipsissima verba. Note also that you will sometimes see compound words formed with ipse and the other pronouns: teipsum, seipsum, etc.

In English, this Latin word has not been very influential - the only borrowing I can think of is the word "solipsism," which is a compound of Latin solus and ips- with the nominalizing suffix -ism. You can also sometimes find the Latin phrase ipse dixit used in English writing, referring to a source of absolute authority; the phrase was reportedly used by the disciples of Pythagoras to invoke the words of their master. You can also see a glimmer of Latin ipse in the nonsensical "lorem ipsum" which is used as dummy text in typesetting.

Here are some examples of today's word in Latin sayings and proverbs:

Alter ipse amicus.

Iuvat ipse labor.

Ipse fecit cui prodest.

Assiduos deus ipse iuvat.

Audentes deus ipse iuvat.

Fortes adiuvat ipsa Venus.

Sibi ipse auctor malorum.

Ipse sibi malum cacat.

Nihil inimicius quam sibi ipse.

Prima caritas incipit a seipso.

Piger ipse sibi obstat.

Ipsa virtus pretium suum.

Nequitia ipsa est poena sui.

Ipsa scientia potestas est.

Senectus ipsa est morbus.

Nosce te ipsum.

Te ipsum inspice.

Vince te ipsum.

Bis vincit qui se ipsum vincit.

Medice, cura te ipsum.


By Grace said...

In biblical studies, there is a distinction commonly made. In the gospels one distinguishes between the ipsissima verba, the very words of Christ, and the ipsissima vox, the voice of Christ. The latter refers to the position that the gospels record what Jesus said, but not in his precise wording.

Laura Gibbs said...

What a wonderful example of ipse, Grace - thank you! That's a nice instance of using Latin where it's really hard to get the idea across in English as easily. The idea that you can have a SUPERLATIVE form of ipse is something I find really expressive! :-)