fingere AND the Harry Potter Motto / by Anthony Gibbins

As our first story reaches its end, I wanted Pico to have one last appearance. My own favourite Pico moment was at the end of Episode 3, imaging himself to be a dragon, a protector of his town. I have included a little call-back to that moment here. Below, then, is a little from two blogs that I posted way back then, when Pico first appeared as dragon.

in animo fingere (Oct 26, 2016)

The word fingere is a one-word celebration of creativity. Take a look at the meanings suggested by the Oxford Classical Dictionary; to make by shaping (from clay, wax, molten metal, etc.), to mold or knead (materials) into shape, to form out of original matter, to create, to make a likeness of, to arrange or tidy (the hair), to transform (one’s self), to modify (one’s expression), to guide or influence (a person’s character or behaviour), to compose (literary works), to coin (a word or phrase), to contrive (a plan of action), to invent or fabricate (a story, excuse or accusation), to utter (an insincerity), to forge (a will).

Or to form a mental picture of, to conjure up in the mind, to visualize.


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 Present Participles, and dormiens sleeping is yet 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 means 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.

Soon the band arrives at the attic room of Marcellus. Look! Our Pico is standing on the roof. Perhaps he is again imagining in his mind that he is a huge dragon. Marcellus leads the band inside.