Saturday, January 24, 2009

Noli erratorum permittere te terere...

I saw the phrase "illegitimi non carborundum" on the web someplace recently and, having a rather keen interest not only in Latin but also, more poignantly, in drastically improving my laughable command of it, I decided to google the phrase. Get smart, and all that.

Turns out, according to Wikipedia, "illegitimi non carborundum" is not only one of many versions of that saying, but is also totally fallacious Latin. It is "suppozed" to mean "Don't let the bastards wear you down," but is actually nonsense.

The actual Latin for "bastard" is "nothus" and "carborundum" is a neologism based on a hard substance used for grinding (the -undum suggests a gerund, but doesn't work here). According to Henry Beard (Latin for Even More Occasions, chapter 1), the proper Latin is the following:

Noli nothis permittere te terere.

Noli is the single negative imperative (plural, nolite) and nothis is in the genitive (as they are wearing down (terendum) in relation to te, you).

Lastly, if I'm not mistaken (such a large if!), my title for this post means "Don't let errors wear you down."

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