bank statements / by Anthony Gibbins

So, this is why Marcellus seemed anxious. He owes a lot of money, and he knows it. And now Augustus knows it too. Moreover, the bank manager seems genuinely concerned by the news. This was achieved by removing his usual head and replacing it with that of a minifigure on crutches, with a broken leg, and, well, a concerned look on his face. So far, I like Augustus. He cleans his own clock and gets upset at his clients’ financial troubles.

‘Marcellus is painting.’ is a statement. It can also be called a direct statement, to differentiate it from ‘Augustus says that Marcellus is painting.’ ‘…that Marcellus is painting.’ is an indirect statement. Indirect statements can follow verbs of reporting (e.g. The message says that Marcellus is painting.), perceiving (e.g. Can’t you see that Marcellus is painting?) or thinking (e.g. I know that Marcellus is painting).

The way that Latin handles indirect statements is very interesting indeed. For a start, there is no one word that is used to mean ‘that’. Instead, the noun is treated as though it is an object rather than a subject (Marcellum instead of Marcellus) and the verb is written in the form that means ‘to paint’, called the infinitive (pingere). And so, ‘Marcellus is painting.’, Marcellus pingit. and ‘I know that Marcellus is painting.’, scio Marcellum pingere. A literal translation ‘I know Marcellus to be painting.’ sounds odd. But no more odd than ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident.’

Marcellus multam pecuniam debet. means ‘Marcellus owes a lot of money’. nuntius refert Marcellum multam pecuniam debere. means ‘The message reports Marcellus to owe much money.’ Neat, hey!

Augustus at last reads the message. The message reports that Marcellus, a client of the bank, owes much money.