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Reg Latin scholars scrap over LOHAN's stirring motto

WTF is 'Et anatis cum tape XL WD'?

It's fair to say that the quest for a stirring motto for our proposed Low Orbit Helium Assisted Navigator (LOHAN) mission patch is proving to be the most fun we've had in a long while.

A proposed LOHAN mission patch

So great was the response to our call for suggestions that we're buried under a magnus congestus of Latin, a great part of which would have Cicero spinning in his sepulcrum.

You have to bear with us while we compile a shortlist for the promised public poll, but while you're waiting to cast your vote, enjoy some absolutely tremendous feedback from Vincent Ballard, in response to to this first random list of submissions:

  • Colei canis in vacuo
  • Da Da Per Forcipem
  • Ad astra et ad taverna
  • In vacuo nemo clamorem audit
  • Pilas Ad Parietem
  • Veni vici ballocketi
  • Et anatis cum tape XL WD
  • Pervenientes usque pro stilo cælos in
  • Omnes vacuums hereditatem datæ sunt nobis
  • De ebrietate, ingenium
  • Navis volitans mea plena anguillarum est

Vincent wrote:

It's a few years since I did GCSE Latin, but with the help of Wiktionary to double-check the declensions I've struggled through all of the listed phrases.

"Colei canis in vacuo": grammatically correct, translates as "The dog's balls in (a) vacuum". If the intention was "The dog's balls in space" then it should probably be "in caelis" (in the heavens) instead of "in vacuo". "Da da per forcipem": grammatically correct, but somewhat nonsensical. "Give give through forceps"?!

"Ad astra et ad taverna": as commented above, it should be "tabernam" (b, not v; and in the accusative"; and it would be more idiomatic to use -que rather than et. "Ad astra tabernamque": to the stars and the pub.

"In vacuo nemo clamorem audit": grammatically correct; translates as "In a vacuum no-one hears shouting". I'm not sure whether this was intentionally phrased to avoid calls from Ridley Scott's lawyers, or whether the submitter was avoiding the complication of which verb form to use for the object of auditere.

"Pilas ad parietem": I'm not sure what this is trying to say. I has no verb and no subject, just two nouns in the accusative case. If the intended translation was "Mortar to the wall", it might be correct as "Pila ad parietem", but I'm not sure what that has to do with LOHAN.

"Veni vici ballocketi" would be grammatical if there were an irregular second declension noun ballockere. I think I may be missing a cultural reference here.

"Et anatis cum tape XL WD" is nonsense. "And of the duck with" followed by three non-Latin words. I hazard a guess that the intended meaning is "With duck tape and WD-40", which might be translated as "Cum cincta anatis et WD-XL", but the use of "cincta" for "tape" is by working backwards from modern Romance languages. And who knows what the ablative of WD-40 is?

"Pervenientes usque pro stilo cælos in": almost grammatically correct. It's necessary to correct "caelos" (non-existent declension) to "caelis" to get "Those who are arriving all the way in front of a stake to the heavens". I am puzzled by the use of the plural "pervenientes", but I haven't paid enough attention to the LOHAN project to know how many passengers it's carrying.

"Omnes vacuums hereditatem datæ sunt nobis": not grammatical, and it's not obvious how to fix it. "datae sunt nobis" gives a passive verb with actor "us", so it needs a nominative plural: if we correct vacuums (which isn't any of the declined forms of vacuus) to vacui then we can translate as "All voids are given an inheritance by us", but that's not very sensical. The other option for the subject is an implicit "they", but then we need one of the two objects to be a dative, and since "omnes" is plural nominative or accusative and "hereditatem" is singular accusative that's not possible.

"De ebrietate, ingenium" is grammatical: "From drunkenness, intelligence".

"Navis volitans mea plena anguillarum est" is grammatical: "My hovering ship is full of eels".

Terrific. That might of been the end of it, but Irony Deficient weighed into the linguistic fray with:

Vincent, may you receive the laurel for your efforts in cleaning this corner of our Augean stables! (If you have a masochistic streak, the rest of the entries start here.) I’ll add a bit to what you’ve observed above:

  • Da has several possible meanings; my guess is that “give birth” was (figuratively) intended.
  • Pila has several meanings; my guess is that pilae was intended, as a literal translation from English for colei.
  • For the ablative of WD-40, perhaps mixtione WD-40. To also “translate” WD-40, one could use XL WD (as Mud5hark originally offered), or XL VVD (since Latin didn’t have a letter W), or XL IA (roughly translating “water displacement” as immutatio aquae). Fortunately, XL is indeclinable.

Vincent responded:

Apparently "Da da per forcipem" was meant to say "Give me the pliers", which is nice and simple: "Forcipem mihi da".

Your guess about "pilae" turns out to be correct.

If we go far enough back, Latin was quite flexible about its numerals. It occurs to me that XXXX might be a more gypaetine way of writing 40 than XL.

"pro stilo" was apparently supposed to mean "in style", but although there's an etymological link it's quite a stretched one. I think that the intended meaning of "Reaching for the heavens in style" would be better achieved as "Eleganter ad cælis perveniens".

And the puzzling sentence ending "datae nobis sunt", which did hint at an "All your base" reference, was indeed so intended. "All your space are belong to us". Here I favour "spatia" as more punny: "Omnis spatia tuae pertinere nobis sunt" (deliberately ungrammatical).

Just when it appeared it couldn't get any better, it did. Enter Michael Dunn regarding "Ad astra tabernamque":

I am not happy about that "que"; it implies an equality between the two things named by the nouns. Remember the great schism, the split between Rome and the Eastern church, was prompted in part by by the inclusion of the word "Filioque" in the Nicene Creed.

Hmmmm. Back to you, Irony Deficient:

Michael, how does -que imply equality? Consider the first sentence of Tacitus’ Germania:

Germania omnis a Gallis Raetisque et Pannoniis Rheno et Danuvio fluminibus, a Sarmatis Dacisque mutuo metu aut montibus separatur: cetera Oceanus ambit, latos sinus et insularum inmensa spatia complectens, nuper cognitis quibusdam gentibus ac regibus, quos bellum aperuit.
In this sentence, Gaul is not being equated to Rhaetia, and Sarmatia is not being equated to Dacia.

The Filioque controversy had more to do with ἐκπορευόμενον having been translated into Latin as procedit, and the differences in their respective connotations when “and the Son” was appended in Latin.

We're glad that's cleared up, and we'll leave the final word to "breakfast", on the matter of "Veni vici ballocketi":

I am surprised to discover the Romans had no word for ballockets. Raises serious questions regarding what they have ever done for us. Which provides another possible motto: Quid pro nobis Romanos?

Oh no, cue another "Romanes Eunt Domus" moment. ®


The deadline for motto submissions has now passed. Please don't send any more suggestions, or we'll be up to our nuces in dodgy lingo for the next six months.

More from the lovely LOHAN:

  • You can find full LOHAN coverage right here.
  • If you're new to LOHAN, seek out our mission summary for enlightenment.
  • There are photos our our magnificent Vulture 2 spaceplane here, and detailed structural plans here.
  • For your further viewing pleasure, we have all our photographic material stored on Flickr.
  • Our LOHAN and Paper Aircraft Released Into Space (PARIS) videos live on YouTube.
  • We sometimes indulge in light consensual tweeting, as you can see here.

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