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November 14, 2006

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I once heard the Vatican's chief linguist on the radio describe the challenges of his job: coming up with Latin phrases for things unknown to the ancients. My favourite was the Latin for chewing gum. Gummi masticandum.

Looking at some of this Latin, I'm not completely sure of the translations; or at least whether they would pass muster with, say, Cicero or Caesar.

For instance: Sane ego te vocavi.

Sane could mean 'Really' in the sense of 'indeed.' Ego means 'I' (as in 'et in arcadia ego'). 'Te' means 'you' and 'vocavi' is a form of voco, to call or summon. So, the sense of the translation is right-ish: "Really, I did call you."

But, in the spirit of Strunkus and Whitus, omit unnecessary words. The 'ego' here is completely redundant as Latin verbs include the subject in them. Vocavi, the first person singular perfect indicative, literally means 'I called.' 'Te' is sort of optional, especially since the English translation doesn't include the word 'you.' 'Sane' also, and for similar reasons.

So Professor Stibbe's translation "Vocavi."

Crikey, though, I spent far too much time in Latin classes at school and university and this is really the only time in my life it has ever come in useful. And I use the word 'useful' in the broadest possible sense

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