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.”