A while ago Yanhao sent me this rather amusing drawing he found, in the hope that I might be able to understand it better than he did, seeing as I have had considerably more experience when it comes to the language that is Latin. Yes, I took Latin for A-level. No, that was not a joke. It’s not funny, stop laughing.
By going through what the image actually entails, I thought I’d be able to share with you today the joys of Latin. Perhaps you can go share it with your friends and wow them with your amazing knowledge of a few Latin phrases.
Cogito Ergo Sum – I think, therefore I am
Cogito means ‘I think’ in Latin. The English words cognition, cognitive and the like all stem from this verb. The phrase ‘I think, therefore I am’, which you may have come across before, originates from French philosopher René Descartes in his Principles of Philosophy where he asserts that the very act of doubting one’s own existence served as a proof of the reality of one’s own mind. Essentially, there must be something thinking the thought – in this case, ourselves. This phrase was then later used by many philosophers including Plato when explaining existence and knowledge.
Memento mori – Remember that you must die
In modern English, memento mori generally refers to an object which is kept as a reminder of the inevitability of death, such as a skull. The reflection on mortality was first practised by Greek philosophers such as Plato but has stretched through to the modern day. During the Medieval period, the development of faith and religion brought about a strong emphasis on divine judgement, and Christians believed that we should turn our attention away from the empty pleasures and achievements of everyday life and focus instead on enlightenment in the afterlife. Many works of art during this period can be found to embrace the theme of Memento Mori, ‘the expression… developed with the growth of Christianity, which emphasized Heaven, Hell, and salvation of the soul in the afterlife.’ It is also at the forefront of many other religions, and is even widely celebrated by Mexicans in a festival called the Day of the Dead.
Persona non grata – An unwelcome person
In diplomacy, this refers to a foreign person who is banned from entering or staying in a particular country by that country’s government, and is considered to be a very serious form of censure. In general usage, it means someone that is ostracized and culturally shunned, becoming virtually non-existent.
Argumentum ad hominem – To the man
This phrase is used to describe a certain kind of logical fallacy where an argument is rebutted by attacking a character rather than the substance of the argument itself. However, it does not always imply faulty reasoning such as in discussing morality and practicality.
The chicken on the right is thinking sic, which would usually mean ‘thus’, to call attention to the pig’s spelling mistake or perhaps erroneous logic. Don’t hate the player, hate the game.
Carpe diem – Seize the day
First written by Roman poet Horace in his work Odes, the moral is not to ignore the future and trust that everything is going to fall into place for you – you need to take action for your own future, like the pig is doing. The phrase has close connotations with the acronym YOLO, which also implies that you should make the most of what you have in life by taking risks, as you might never get a second chance. The chicken makes another appearance, this time with the phrase per alias porci? – ‘On the wings of a pig?’. This is a reference to a phrase from Virgil, ad astra per alia porci meaning ‘to the stars on the wings of a pig’.
E pluribus unum – Out of many, one
The phrase generally suggests that out of many peoples, races or religions emerges a single people and nation—illustrating the concept of the melting pot, where many cultures have merged into one. This phrase is used on the Seal of the United States and can be found on many American coins. In this context all the different farm animals are working together so that the pig can escape his inevitable fate. The chicken, once again, is on the side with another phrase, citius, altius, fortius meaning ‘faster, higher, stronger’ and is the motto for the Olympics.
Ad astra per aspera – Through hardships to the stars
Only through hard work and perspiration will you be able to reach high places. This phrase is used countless times in popular culture and mottos.
Deus ex machina – God from the machine
The origin of this phrase comes from Greek plays, where actors playing god characters would be manually lifted onto the stage from above by a mechanical crane. This employing of a god would often be used to resolve a conflict and conclude the drama. First coined by Greek philosopher Aristotle, the term has evolved to mean a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly resolved by the unexpected intervention of some new character or event. It is often used to allow a story to continue when the writer has written himself into a corner and sees no other way out, to surprise the audience, to bring the tale to a happy ending, or as a comedic device. Some examples of usage include in Lord of the Flies, when the savage children are rescued from self-assured destruction by a passing naval officer, and in Lord of the Rings, when Sam and Frodo are rescued by Great Eagles from certain death. Pretty convenient, eh?
I hope you enjoyed that rather long-winded explanation of the image and that you are able to understand it now to some extent. Although I did enjoy the refreshing variation, I think I’m going to lay off the Latin for a bit…