Thursday, February 26, 2009

in nomine Patris et Filii et...huh?

In the name of the Father, the Son, and the...huh?

XKCD (via Brad DeLong)

Friday, February 20, 2009

quaestio publica

A public poll.
If someone came up to you in the street and said "Isn't it paradoxical that the Catullan Martial is not a neoteric Martial?" would you know what he/she meant?
Well...would you?

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Quid est in nomine bestiarum?

What is in the name of animals?

Language Log has an interesting post concerning the formation of scientific nomenclatures which are named in honor of those who discovered them. Sally Thomason wonders why female scientists receive attribution with only the feminine genitive suffix -ae but males with -i or -ii.

The gist: non-Latin names of these biologists has been notoriously problematic, and different methods of Latinization have led to two different surface forms of the masculine genitive suffix. So while evidence of it is slim, there is no reason why femine suffixes in -iae and -ia should not be present.

However, contributions by Ben Fortson and Don Cameron are always worth reading.


So the reason all this is relevant is that let's say you want to Latinize a non-Latin family name. A non-Latin family name kind of corresponds to the gentilicium but also kind of corresponds to the cognomen; there's no exact equivalent either way. So one could defensibly tack on either -ius or -us to the non-Latin name to do the trick. Falling into the former camp are Latinized names like Gronovius (originally Gronov), Lipsius (-us or -ius and usually the correct one was used. This can extend to German names of ultimately Latin origin, e.g. Camerarius being the rendering of Camerer (chamberlain).

Mutatis mutandis the same issues obtain with women's last names. The names of Roman women were just feminizations of male names (Julia Greyia instead of Greya (to form the genitive greyae in Bathylagus greyae).
and Cameron:
The International Code of Zoological Nomenclature (4th edition, Sec. 31.1.2) specifies one -i, but under 31.1.3, about preservation of the original spelling, both cuveri and cuverii are admissible. The trouble comes from different conventions of Latinizing modern proper names. Originally in Latin names like Marcus have genitive Marci and names like Livius have genitive Livii. So do you want to Latinize my name as Cameronus or Cameronius? You have a choice. Then the genitives would be Cameroni or Cameronii. Modern custom following the Code is to use one -i.
Check out the rest of the post here.

Friday, February 13, 2009



Yesterday, the ferocious winds that laid waste to the greater East Brunswick area led to calamity for AlmostWorthKnowing's Abe Tran. As he documents here, his car suffered the unfortunate wrong-place, wrong-time fall of a hefty tree branch on its windshield and upper hood. Our condolences go out to him and his automobile.

He attributes this unlucky turn of fate to Boreas--in Greek mythology, God of the North Wind. However, after closely consulting the modern day weather augurs, I would say that the blame more accurately belongs to Zephyr╬┐s--the West Wind--and it suggest that Mr. Tran ought direct future propitiations to this fickle Deity.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

alienus in terra aliena

Stranger in a Strange Land.

Not long ago, Brett and I finished reading Robert Heinlein's 1961 sci-fi classic Stranger in a Strange Land. Amidst the general fantastic silliness, the untranslated Martian word grok stood out as particularly ridiculous--and yet somehow, it was catchy (perhaps in the worst kind of way). Thus while the predictable plot and laughably stereotypical characters have quickly faded into hazy recollection, grok lives on in my lexicon...and apparently, in that of others as well.

It is casually used by Felix Salmon and Alex Tabarrok.

Also, while recently perusing the blogosphere, I stumbled upon this:
Warlocks and Morlocks
Don't grok door locks.
And finally, today, in my quest to determine the the identity of Martial's malignus interpres, I was seeking out a translation for German verstehen:

to grok [sl.] (Amer.) verstehen | verstand, verstanden |

I believe I speak rightly when I say--IT'S EVERYWHERE!

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Quidcumque nobis Romani fecere?

What have the Romans ever done for us?

The reminder of this classic clip comes via Chris Blattman.