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Some Latin Words and Phrases You Should Know (and Possibly Some You Shouldn’t)
Nov 9, 2012
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It’s been an incredibly busy week, so let’s slow it down a little, have some fun and maybe learn a little something in the process. The English language is complicated, because it’s a mix of many languages. But two languages make up a large part of our English vocabulary—Latin and Greek. While Greek requires learning some specialized letters, Latin has no such barrier. What you see (generally), is what you get. Here are a few Latin terms that we all should be familiar with. There are others, but these are a good start.

Ad infinitum: “To Infinity; having no end” (Government spending goes on ad infinitum; also Buzz Lightyear).

Ad hominem: “Against the man” (A prominent logical fallacy attacking the person rather than the argument; a favorite tactic of liberals).

Ars gratia artis: “Art for arts sake” (The motto of MGM Studios. I would see it on the screen, but never knew what it meant until I got a real education).

Carpe diem: “Seize the day” (Overused but still worth knowing. A movie that ruined Carpe Diem for all of us was the Dead Poets Society).

Caveat emptor: “Let the buyer beware” (If a deal is too good to be true, it probably is).

Cogito ergo sum: “I think, therefore I exist (am)” (A phrase made popular by philosopher Rene Descartes).

Compos mentis: “Of sound mind or being mentally competent” (An attribute we would like to see in politicians).

E pluribus unum: “Out of many, one” (An American motto describing how 13 independent colonies became one nation; we’ve lost the concept of the “many”).

Ex libris: “From the library of” (Often stuck on the first page of a book to identify the owner; few people pay attention to them; don’t ask to borrow any of my books).

Imprimatur: “Let it be printed” (Lets the reader know that a book is approved by the Roman Catholic Church; generally used as “stamp of approval”).

Magnum opus: “A great work” (Mr. Holland’s Opus comes to mind).

Nihil obstat: “Nothing stands in the way” (As in, “Nothing stands in the way of increased spending and tax cuts”).

Non sequitur: “It does not follow” (Another good phrase when dealing with arguments, since most of them don’t).

Nota bene: “Take notice,” or more literally, “note well.” Often abbreviated N.B. or n.b.

Pax Romana: “Roman Peace” (It really wasn’t).

Pax voviscum: “Peace unto you” (A benediction).

Post hoc, ergo propter hoc: “After this, therefore because of this” (If you’ve ever seen Nomar Garciapara at the plate, you’ll know what this means).

Pro bono (publico): “For the public good” (Lawyers often do pro bono work).

Quid pro quo: “An equal exchange” (loose translation) (I’ll scratch your back, if you’ll scratch my back).

sic et non: “Yes and no” (A doubled-minded man).

sic semper tyrannis: “Thus always to tyrants” (The motto found on the state seal of Virginia and what John Wilkes Booth shouted after killing Abraham Lincoln; I’m surprised the PC crowd hasn’t forced Virginia to change it).

sine qua non: “The essential element or condition.”

status quo: “The existing condition” (Keeping things as they are, because they’ve always been that way).

stet: “Let it stand” (If you want to correct a mistake that’s not really a mistake, you write stet; most often used by proofreaders).

Tabula rasa: “Blank (erased) slate” (John Locke’s understanding of the mind at birth; it’s blank until experiences are written on it shaping a person’s worldview).

….and some Latin phrases that are just plain fun:

Latine dici non potest: “You can’t say that in Latin.”

Quiquid latine dictum sit altum viditur: “Whatever is said in Latin sounds profound.”

Quid est ventus celeritate velocitatem hirundo: “What is the windspeed velocity of a swallow?”

Chuck Norris est tam lentus, non habere Mentum subter barbam suam iustus alius pugni: “Chuck Norris is so tough, he doesn’t have a chin underneath his beard; just another fist.”

Lex clavatoris designati rescindenda est: “The designated hitter rule, has to go.”

Si Hoc Legere Scis Nimium Eruditionis Habes: “If you can read this, you’re over educated.”

Mihi ignosce. Cum homine de cane debeo congredi: “Excuse me, I have to see a man about a dog.”

Id legi iniuriam die ut subsisto olefactandum gluten: “I picked the wrong day to stop sniffing glue.”

 

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American Vision

American Vision’s mission is to Restore America to its Biblical Foundation—from Genesis to Revelation. American Vision (AV) has been at the heart of worldview study since 1978, providing resources to exhort Christian families and individuals to live by a Biblically based worldview. Whether by making available educational resources about God & Government, or by tackling the formidable issue of eschatology in the Church, AV is on the front lines, circulating material around the globe to Christians passionate to meet God on His terms in every area of life—right now and for generations to come.

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