dies natalis reginae 1 of 3 by Anthony Gibbins

In my small colony of New South Wales, we have a long weekend to celebrate the Queen’s Birthday this week. Everyone loves a long weekend. The streets have been a little quieter, there is an extra day to do the washing, and I even went to a Sunday night party! Meanwhile, I’ve been writing the Episode 12 story - the final finale! Episode 12 is going to be BIG! Not only are we returning to Pompeii (sorry for the spoiler, if you haven’t finished Episode 11), but I am also building three other location sets - although I won’t give away what they are. So I’ve been busy.

This is my excuse for not blogging these last past days. So, rather than fall behind, I’m going to catch up now with a few simple translation posts. Thank you for your understanding. And Happy Birthday, Elizabeth II.

‘Where is the suitcase?’ Miranda asks immediately. Marcellus, running to the bedroom, shouts ‘Under the bed!’. Jessica and Claudia meanwhile look at Marcellus’ excellent pictures.

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.

not all objects are created equal by Anthony Gibbins

Last week a student is First Year Latin (we call it Form I) raised his hand to indicate he had a question. I wandered over to find him flicking through the dictionary at the back of the Oxford Latin Course. Why, he wanted to know, did some Verbs have +dat written after them? The conversation went something like this:

m: Well, you know what an Object is, yes?

d: Yes.

m: bene. What Case is the Object written in?

d: The Accusative Case.

m: Correct. Now, some Verbs have an Object not in the Accusative Case, but in the Dative Case.

d: Oh.

m: And the textbook shows this by writing +dat after them.

d: Okay.

m: (just showing off now) There are even a few - very few - Verbs that have an Object in the Ablative Case.

d: (just being polite) That’s nice.

That explanation is clear, easy and - as far as I can see - doesn’t cause too much trouble down the line. The only problem is, it may also be wrong. Take ei credo I trust her from today’s page. Is ei an Object, written in the Dative Case, because that is just how credere likes its Objects? That is certainly how I think about it, but that doesn’t make it right. ‘Bradley’s Arnold’ Latin Prose Composition, for example, clearly states that credere is - here - Intransitive, that is - it doesn’t take an object! And that ei is something else entirely.

Things are not made any easier by the fact that credere CAN take an Object in the Accusative Case. vitam ei credo means I trust my life to her, where vitam life is an Accusative Object. And then there is that handful of synonyms, where one (seemingly) has its Object in the Accusative, the other in the Dative. Are we to say that only one of them is truely an Object?

ei succurro                 eam iuvo                    I help her

ei placeo                     eam delecto               I please her

ei impero                    eam iubeo                  I order her

ei medeor                   eam curo                    I heal her

ei suadeo                    eam hortor                 I urge her

I do not have a definitive answer to this, although I know how I prefer to think of it. I’d be happy to hear your thoughts if you feel like sharing them.

‘You meanwhile,’ Claudia says, ‘seem busy.’ Claudia briefly pauses speaking. ‘Jessica seems honourable. Do you trust her, Miranda?’ ‘I trust her,’ Miranda replies uncertainly.

he seems to me the equal of a god by Anthony Gibbins

Here are the first four and a half lines of Sappho 31, written around 600 BC. Sappho was born on the island of Lesbos, and her appreciation of women is the origin of our word lesbian.

φαίνεταί μοι κῆνος ἴσος θέοισιν

ἔμμεν' ὤνηρ, ὄττις ἐνάντιός τοι

ἰσδάνει καὶ πλάσιον ἆδυ φωνεί-

σας ὐπακούει

καὶ γελαίσας ἰμέροεν

to me he seems to be equal to the gods,

that man who sits near you, facing you

and hears you

speaking sweetly

laughing delightfully…

Here are the first four and a half lines of Catullus 51. Catullus was born in northern Italy six centuries after the birth of Sappho, and shared his time on the planet with Julius Caesar and Marcus Tullius Cicero.

ille mi par esse deo videtur,

ille, si fas est, superare divos,

qui sedens adversus identidem te

spectat et audit

ducle ridentem…

he seems to me to be equal to a god

he – if I may utter it – surpasses the gods,

he who sits facing you always

and sees and hears you

sweetly laughing…

Catullus’ poem, as you have no doubt gathered, is a translation from an (even then) ancient Greek into Latin. That, of course, is cool in and of itself and requires no further comment. But I was caused to consider it by the use of visum est it seemed on today’s page. visum est is the Perfect Tense of videtur he/she/it seems, that appears in Catullus 51. videtur is the Passive form of videt he/she/it sees. So, ille videtur can mean either that guy seems or that guy is seen. And that is kinda interesting, no? It is a rather strained link for a post, but it’s better - I hope - than no link at all. pax.

'I also,' Claudia responds, 'for I was missing you.' Miranda smiles. 'Your letter pleased me very much. Your journey seemed excellent to me.' 'It was magnificent,' Claudia says.

The Bechdel Test by Anthony Gibbins

As Claudia and Miranda slip into conversation, I felt it was a good time to revisit The Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test is named for the cartoonist, Alison Bechdel, who first introduced the idea in one of her strips. Bechdel herself prefers the name Bechdel-Wallace Test, which credits the woman, Liz Wallace, who helped develop the idea. In the original strip, which you can read here, two women are discussing whether they should see a movie. One of them outlines the rules she uses for choosing a film;

1. It has to have at least two women in it

2. who talk to each other

3. about something other than a man.

This was thirty-two years ago and, as I understand it, the rules have been tweaked only slightly; the two women should be known to the audience, at least by name.

The Bechdel-Wallace test can be performed on any work of fiction, in order to find out something of the way it portrays female characters. A large amount of fiction, including about a half of all films, fails the test. bechdeltest.com offers a useful list.

Deadpool fails, but Wonder Woman passes. Zootopia passes, but Kung Fu Panda 3 and Monsters Inc. do not. Fightclub, Train Spotting, Forrest Gump, Groundhog Day, The Princess Bride, Stand By Me and Raiders of the Lost Ark all fail. The Life of Brian, Inglourious Bastards, Amelie, No Country for Old Men, The Dark Knight, Sin City, The Incredibles and V for Vendetta all pass. So do Pulp Fiction and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon.

As I said in September last year, it is no great achievement to pass the Bechdel-Wallace test, but it’s problematic that so much of our fiction does not. I’d like to think that Legonium would have passed even if I’d never heard of the test, but I am glad that I had heard of it, and that it is in my mind as I write these stories.

While this small band walks quickly along the street, Miranda and Claudia speak together. ‘I am glad that you have returned home,’ Miranda says to Claudia.


The Hortatory Subjunctive by Anthony Gibbins

In the category of Latin Grammatical Features with Extraordinary Names, the Hortatory Subjunctive has to be a fierce contender. It takes its name, by the way, from a Latin Deponent Verb hortor, hortari, hortatus sum to exhort, incite, encourage. Interestingly, this gave birth to no less than three Nouns, that all appear to mean encouragement or incitement; hortamen, hortamentum and hortatus. Then there is the Noun hortator an inciter or encourager. The Hortatory Subjunctive is a form of the Verb used in Latin to incite or encourage.

Grammatically, the Hortatory Subjunctive is simply a First Person Plural (ie: we) Verb in the Present Subjunctive. For example, festinamus means we are hurrying while festinemus means Let’s hurry! vivemus means we live while vivamus means Let’s live! amamus means we love while amemus means Let’s Love! aestimamus means we value while aestimemus means Let’s value!

Indeed, three of these Hortatory Subjunctives turn up together in one of Latin literature’s most well-known passages, a poem of Catullus.

vivamus, mea Lesbia, atque amemus

rumoresque senum severiorem

omnes unius aestimemus assis!

Let’s live, my Lesbia, and let’s love

and let’s value all the rumors of

too severe old men at a single as!

The fourth turns up on today’s page.

‘I agree with you, Jessica,’ Miranda responds, also rising. ‘Let’s hurry! Lead us to your home, Marcellus. It behooves us to arrive there before those (people).’ They depart from the café together.

We Need to Hurry by Anthony Gibbins

Way back on the seventeenth of May, there was a post called Amanda propaganda agenda, an exploration of the marvelous Gerundive of Obligation. To make a long story short, we saw how the Gerundive of Obligation could be used to show that something had to be done. For example, nobis libri legendi sunt to us there are having to be read books or the books must be read by us or we need to read the books. legendi, you see, is a Gerundive of Obligation.

If you take a look at that previous post, you will see that it dealt only with Transitive Verbs, that is Verbs that can take an Object; to read, to find, to love, to spread, and so forth. Take this sentence for example; nos eam amamus we love her. amamus is a Transitive Verb, so we can easily turn it into a Gerundive of Obligation; nobis ea amanda est to us she is having to be loved or we must love her. But what if the Verb is Intransitive and cannot take an Object? I’m thinking of Verbs like to run, to walk, to arrive and to hurry. Can we use a Gerundive or Obligation to say We need to hurry? We sure can.

The first step is the Verb est he, she or it is. Here, we take est to mean it is, although exactly what the it stands for is kinda uncertain. We then make a phrase that means it is having to be hurried. That is festinandum est. Like any Gerundive of Obligation, the person or people to whom this obligation falls are expressed in the Dative Case, nobis to us. nobis est festinandum to us it is having to be hurried or we need to hurry.

Finally, you may be wondering why the three Gerundives in today’s post have different endings; legendi, amanda and festinandum. The answer is simple; the endings of the Gerundives have changed to Agree With the Noun or Pronoun that they are describing. legendi has a Masculine Plural ending to Agree With libri. amanda has a Feminine Singular ending to Agree With ea. And festinandum has a Neuter Singular ending to Agree With the it in est it is.

The plan having been explained, Jessica, rising from her stool, says ‘We need to hurry. Unless I am mistaken, the private investigator has already made those people more certain that Marcellus has Hadrian’s suitcase.’ Note: made more certain=informed

cui dono lepidum novum libellum? by Anthony Gibbins

First of all, Miranda explains the entire plan to the others. primum omnium Miranda totum consilium ceteris explicat. Today we will take a closer look at that Verb; explico, explicare, explicavi, explicatum to explain.

But first, if explico is a thing, surely plico is too? Indeed, plico, plicare plicavi, plicatum (sometimes plico, plicare, plicui, plicitum) means to fold and to fold together. Virgil uses the word just once in the Aeneid, in describing a serpent in sua membra plicantem folded [back] on its own body. Pliny, in one of his letters, speaks of a plicatrix, a woman whose task it is to fold clothes and bed sheets.

explicare, as we have seen, means to explain, but that is not its original meaning. It originally meant - and indeed this meaning was retained - to unfold, the opposite of plicare. From there it takes on other similar meanings, such as to unroll, to disentangle and to spread out, extend, flatten. Cicero has volumen explicare to unroll a scroll. Ovid writes suas pennas explicare to unfold its feathers. Horace sings frontem sollicitam explicare to flatten a worried brow. And Caesar reports aciem explicare to extend the battle line.

From there the Verb takes on a second meaning, to explain in discourse, expound, interpret. This is the meaning when Miranda explains her plan to the others. This was also what the Hipster Poet Catullus had in mind when he wrote ausus es (unus Italorum) omne aevum tribus explicare chartis. ausus es You dared (unus Italorum alone of the Italians) explicare to explain tribus chartis in three papyri omne aevum the entire past. Catullus was asking to whom he should dedicate his new pamphlet of poetry, and he decided upon the historian Nepos. For Nepos, despite taking on so massive an endeavor, still saw value in Catullus’ musings.

First of all, Miranda explains the entire plan to the others. Jessica and Marcellus and also Claudia listen intently. This plan pleases everyone very much.