Sunday, June 12, 2016

In Any Language

I've often said that the problem with the world is that people don't use enough Latin. Since I haven't said it where people could hear me you may not know I think that, but I do.

The good folk at Mental Floss agree with me (natch) and have a list of 20 Latin phrases we should all be dropping into our conversation. I return their favor by agreeing with them that these phrases have multiple uses in our modern political season.

For example, barba tenus sapientes literally translates "wise as far as his beard," which refers to someone who looks wise but isn't. Given that neither of the two major presidential candidates wears a beard, we can estimate their intelligence as somewhat less than even the simpleton who is barba tenus sapientes. Although technically, one of those candidates should be referred to as combover tenus sapientes for accuracy's sake.

That candidate, of course, is the one most prone to flinging around a brutem fulmen, an empty threat or literally, "senseless thunderbolt." The other candidate, in attempting to excuse or explain a nonstandard e-mail protocol for a former office, is offering one ignotum per ignotius after another. That phrase is used to describe an explanation which is actually intended to obscure rather than illuminate, and literally translates "the unknown by the more unknown."

In the end, neither of them offer actual solutions to modern problems as much as they offer repeated squawkings of what they want to do or what they think we want them to do, meaning that they are -- not literally but certainly more than figuratively -- vox nihili, or "the voice of nothing. The only problem with that situation is that these particular voices of nothing have been thrust upon us by the vox populi, or "voice of the people." In other words, our rotten choice stems from our rotten choices, and this is pretty much our own fault.

Which you don't need Latin to understand.

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