DRACO DORMIENS NUMQUAM TITILLANDUS / by Anthony Gibbins

While we are on the subject of dragons, you are probably familiar with the Hogwarts School Motto, DRACO DORMIENS NUMQUAM TITILLANDUS. It means, as any 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 of this kind as we have read through Pico, and dormiens 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. In fact, this Gerundive is a Gerundive of Obligation. We use a handful of Gerundives of Obligation in English, perhaps without even knowing 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 resolutions [are] ought to be propagated. From propagare, to propagate.

So, DRACO DORMIENS TITILLANDUS EST. The sleeping dragon [is] ought to be tickled. From titillare, to tickle or titillate.

Finally, NUMQUAM is an adverb meaning ‘never’. And it is not at all uncommon to drop the ‘EST’ and just read it as given.

And, if I may, I should like to give a huge shout out to my god-daughter Rosie, who lent me this dragon. 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).