Thursday, May 8, 2008

hodie miror quid heri “heri” appellaretur.

Today I am wondering what “yesterday” was called yesterday.

Reading a bit of fake Ciceronean Latin---the product of the esteemed W.H.D Rouse---I stumbled across nudius tertius, a temporal expression which translates to “the day before yesterday.”

But how did it come to mean this?

Adam's Latin Grammar, 1833, p.124:

nudiustertius, of nunc dies tertius.

So literally, “now the third day.” The Romans, of course, count inclusively: today is 1, yesterday 2, and “the day before yesterday” 3.

nudius is also combined with other ordinal numbers. The expression seems to be most beloved by Plautus. He demonstrates its flexibility in the following passage:

T. Maccius Plautus Mostellaria 956:

PHAN.: Habitat profecto, nám heri et nudius tertius, quartus, quintus, sextus, usque postquam hinc peregre eius pater abiit, numquam hic triduom unum desitum est potarier.

Phaniscus: Certainly he dwells there, for through yesterday and the day before yesterday, and three days ago, and four, and five, and six, and all the time since his father went off abroad, at no point for a span of three days has this man ceased to be drunk.

Now that you have this expression tucked under your belt, you are well-equipped to tell your friends oppressively dull stories about your daily life (in Latin!).

1 comment:

Stephen said...

"Nudius tertius" is one of the favorite Latin phrases of Indo-Europeanists because the -dius- part shows a remnant of the zero grade of the Indo-European root *diu- , whence springeth "day", "dies" (originally would have been *dieus, with some phonological changes and analogical reashapings), "Zeus", etc. I guess Indo-Europeanists have to make due with small pleasures, but anyways, I think it's the only place where an alternate form of the root is preserved, still having the basic meaning day.

- Stephen