Carpe Diem! Ad hoc! Mea Culpa! Bona Fide! Ad Nauseam! De Facto! Ergo! Cum Laude! Modus Operandi! Per Se! Sine Qua Non! Vice Versa! Etc.!
Latin scholar or not, so many expression in our daily life are straight from Latin and they are GOOD! Short and to the point, like the Romans themselves…
So why is Latin so enduring despite it being a dead language? It served as the universal language until the 17th century when it was gazumped by French, which was in turn gazumped by English in the mid-20th century (the French are still not over that, but that is another subject!).
It is not snobbery, but good sense to “Put a Little Latin in Your Life”, as the book “Carpe Diem” by Harry Mount suggests…
However, according to Mount, there is a pitfall: you could end up being a “wanker” i.e. a pedantic show-off (free translation by yours truly) if you insist on using Latin when an English word will do. Less is more. A Latin expression should be used like a good swear word: once in a while to great effect!
The Romans loved graffiti as was discovered when Pompeii was excavated in the 17th century. The walls of the city were covered in witty, endearing and often very raunchy slogans and funny caricatures! This was a slice of perfectly preserved ordinary Roman life, which had been washed away from the walls of other Roman cities over time. The use of “Vulgar Latin” gave great insight of Latin spoken colloquially rather than the literary language of the classical writers.
Who does not remembers the hilarious scene in the film “The Life of Brian” where Brian is caught by the Roman centurion writing: “Romans Go Home” on a wall and has to rewrite the phrase in correct Latin? (click on link to see this)
Scene from the film “The Life of Brian“: “Romans Go Home”!
Another cracker is “Q.E.D” (Quod Erat Demonstrandum): “what was to be demonstrated”. A kind of sophisticated: “There! Take that! The phrase is traditionally placed in its abbreviated form at the end of a mathematical proof or philosophical argument.
Perhaps the most famous use of Q.E.D. in a philosophical argument is found in the “Ethics” of the Dutch philosopher Spinoza from 1677. Written in Latin, it is considered by many to be Spinoza’s magnum opus:
Fragment of Baruch Spinoza‘s “Ethics” where he ends with Q.E.D.
The Americans love Latin for their motto’s and slogans. Is it because they want to prove to the “Old World” their heritage and academic prowess? I am just asking…
My absolute favorite is “E pluribus unum” : “Out of many, one”:
When my sister and I were small, one of the house motto’s was: “Sua Sponte”, which means: “of your own accord” i.e. “get on with it, without having to be prompted! When I became involved in the D-day commemoration in Normandy I discovered to my delight that it is the motto of the United States Ranger Regiment, the very ones that climbed up the famous cliffs at Pointe du Hoc on D-Day!
Rangers from 2nd Ranger Battalion demonstrate the rope ladders they used to scale Pointe du Hoc on D-Day June 6, 1944
Even rappers love showing off their Latin: “Magna Carta” anyone?
Rapper Jay-Z’s 2013 album cover “Magna Carta Holy Grail“, including classical statues…
Q.E.D. “I rest my case…”