While we are on the subject of dragons, you may be familiar with the Hogwarts School Motto, DRACO DORMIENS NUNQUAM TITILLANDUS. It means, as many a Harry Potter fan can tell you, ‘Never Tickle a Sleeping Dragon’. Let’s take a look at the grammar.
The easy part is DRACO DORMIENS, ‘a sleeping dragon’. We have seen quite a few Participles like dormiens as we have read through Pico, and here is another. It is a form of the verb dormio, dormire, dormivi, dormitum, to sleep.
TITILLANDUS is a wonderful example of a grammatical feature with a wonderful name; a Gerundive. This particular Gerundive is a Gerundive of Obligation, meaning it expresses a need to do (or not do). We use a handful of Gerundives of Obligation that have snuck into English, perhaps without even realising it. For example;
femina amanda est. The woman [is] ought to be loved. From amare, to love.
officia agenda sunt. The duties [are] ought to be done. From agere, to do.
consilia propaganda sunt. The plans [are] ought to be propagated or we should spread the plans. From propagare, to propagate.
So, DRACO DORMIENS TITILLANDUS EST means The sleeping dragon [is] ought to be tickled. From titillare, to tickle or titillate. We can drop the EST of the end without anybody really minding - especially in a motto.
Finally, NUNQUAM is an adverb meaning ‘never’. And so we end up where we began - A sleeping dragon is never to be tickled OR Never tickle a sleeping dragon.
And, if I may, I should like to give a huge shout out to my god-daughter Rosie, who lent me the dragon you'll see below. tibi maximas gratias ago, Rosalina. You are awesome.
This evening our Pico imagines himself to be a huge dragon, the protector of his town. For Pico loves his town very-much (valde).