Octopuses, Alumni and Plural Mysteries in American English

There are two words in American English that are commonly misused in the plural forms.

One is “alumni.” The Latin word for “student” is “alumnus.” Its plural form is “alumni.” One alumnus, many alumni. Ironically, the misuse is often even propagated by university alumni organizations which refer to its members as alumni (correctly) but also sell bumper stickers and other paraphernalia with labels like “Alumni of SoAndSo University.” You are actually an alumnus of SoAndSo University.

Another is “octopuses.” The word comes from Greek, and the plural form is “octopodes.” The Latin word for “octopus” is actually “polypus.” There is no “i” in any form of octopus.

And that’s my language lesson for the day.

Vis – The Latin Corner – Take Six

Vis consilii expers mole ruit sua.

— Horace, Book III, Poem 4, Line 65

Wolfgang in German: Kraft ohne (= expers /nicht teilhabend an etwas) Einsicht (Überlegung, besonnene Klugheit) stürzt durch ihre eigene Schwere (Masse, Größe …).

Norbert in English: Power without introspection is crushed by its own weight.

Today, more than ever before in my lifetime, are we faced with immense power controlled by complete dilettantes and narcissists. Watch and learn: vis consilii expers mole ruit sua!

Latin Corner – Reductio ad Hitlerum

I am so guilty of invoking Godwin’s Law. I just did it in yesterday’s post. A faithful and very reliable reader (MB) commented “Godwin’s Law” and those two words said it all.

Godwin’s Law States:

As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches 1, that is, if an online discussion (regardless of topic or scope) goes on long enough, sooner or later someone will compare someone or something to Adolf Hitler or his deeds.

— Wikipedia

Reductio ad Hitlerum:

Reductio ad Hitlerum (pseudo-Latin for “reduction to Hitler”; sometimes argumentum ad Hitlerum, “argument to Hitler”, ad Nazium, “to Nazism”), or playing the Nazi card, is an attempt to invalidate someone else’s position on the basis that the same view was held by Adolf Hitler or the Nazi Party, for example: “Hitler was against tobacco smoking, X is against tobacco smoking, therefore X is a Nazi”.

— Wikipedia

Who knows stuff like this? I guess MB does!

Lesson to me: I need to stop being guilty of reductio ad Hitlerum.

Semper Avarus Eget – The Latin Corner – Take Five

Semper avarus eget.

— Horace, Epistulae Book I, Poem 2, Line 56


Wolfgang in German: Der Habsüchtige leidet immer Mangel > er hat immer das Gefühl, daß ihm etwas fehlt, daß er zu wenig hat, daß er mehr braucht … Er ist ein armer, getriebener Teufel.

Norbert in English: The greedy always suffers from lack.

Vis Consilii Expers – The Latin Corner – Take Four

Vis consilii expers mole ruit sua.

— Horace, Odes Book III, Poem 4, Line 65

Wolfgang in German: Kraft ohne (= expers /nicht teilhabend an etwas) Einsicht (Überlegung, besonnene Klugheit) stürzt durch ihre eigene Schwere (Masse, Größe …).

Norbert in English: Power without insight collapses by its own weight. (Insight could also be replaced with thoughtfulness or wisdom).

Oh, good ol’ Horace! It’s like he is talking about politics in the United States of America in 2017. Power without insight was a problem in ancient Rome, it was a problem in Nazi Germany, and it’s a problem in Trump’s America.

Just remember:

Vis consilii expers mole ruit sua.

Desipere in Loco – The Latin Corner – Take Three

Dulce est desipere in loco.

— Horace, Odes Book IV, Poem 12, Line 28

Wolfgang in German: Süß ist es, sich der Torheit zu überlassen (leichtsinnig zu sein, sich kindisch aufzuführen, zu blödeln …) am rechten Ort (also dann, wenn es am Platz ist, wenn es paßt).

Norbert in English: It’s fun to goof off when appropriate.

I might note that, after all, the Latin form is the shortest. Even succinct, colloquial English doesn’t beat it.

Crescentem Pecuniam – The Latin Corner – Take Two

Crescentem sequitur cura pecuniam / maiorumque fames.

— Horace, Odes Book III, poem 16, line 17

Wolfgang in German: Dem anwachsenden Geldschatz folgt die Sorge / und der Hunger nach mehr …

Norbert in English: Growing wealth is followed by worry / and hunger for more …

Carpe Diem – The Latin Corner – Take One

My Latin friends are starting to feed me with Latin poetry and wisdom, and it is stirring very old childhood memories in me, a Latin reawakening. My friend and German professor, Wolfgang Illauer, sent me a list of famous quotes, translated as literally as possible from Latin to German. In this series, I will introduce them one by one, first in Latin, then in Wolfgang’s German, and then in my English. Let’s hope we are able to preserve the beauty and elegance of the original phrases, all by Horace (23 BC) in his famous work Odes.

Carpe diem quam minime credula postero.

— Horace, Odes Book I, Poem 11, Line 8

In the English speaking world, in educated circles, we have all heard Carpe Diem, and we know it means Seize the Day.

Wolfgang in German: Pflücke (= genieße nach und nach) den (gegenwärtigen) Tag, möglichst gar nicht vertrauend dem kommenden Tag!

Norbert in English, literally: Pluck (= enjoy piece by piece) the (current) day, possibly not trusting in the following day!

Norbert in English, freeform: Seize the day, trusting as little as possible in the future.

And here you have it. Now you know where Carpe Diem comes from!