Dog Latin

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Broken “Latin” inscription in Fishguard

Dog Latin or cod Latin is a phrase or jargon that imitates Latin,[1] often by "translating" English words (or those of other languages) into Latin by conjugating or declining them as if they were Latin words. Dog Latin is usually a humorous device mocking scholarly seriousness. It can also mean a poor-quality attempt at writing genuine Latin.[2]

History[edit]

Examples of this predate even Shakespeare, whose 1590s play, Love's Labour's Lost, includes a reference to dog Latin:

Costard: Go to; thou hast it ad dungill, at the fingers' ends, as they say. Holofernes: O, I smell false Latine; dunghill for unguem.[3]

Thomas Jefferson mentioned dog Latin by name in 1815:

Fifty-two volumes in folio, of the acta sanctorum, in dog-latin, would be a formidable enterprise to the most laborious German.[4]

Examples[edit]

  • Illegitimi non carborundum, interpreted as 'Don't let the bastards grind you down', though it is not proper Latin.
  • Semper ubi sub ubi is unintelligible as Latin, but translates word for word as 'always where under where', interpreted as 'always wear underwear'.[5]
  • A once-common schoolboy doggerel which, though very poor Latin, would have done a tolerable job of reinforcing the rhythms of Latin hexameters:

Patres conscripti took a boat, and went to Philippi;
Boatum est upsettum, magno cum grandine venti.
Omnes drownderunt qui swim away non potuerunt.
Trumpeter unus erat, qui coatum scarlet habebat;
Et magnum periwig, tied about with the tail of a dead pig.[6]

Insofar as this specimen can be translated, it is as follows:

The conscript fathers [i.e. Senators] took a boat and went to Philippi.
The boat was upset by a great hailstorm of wind.
All drowned who could not swim away.
There was a trumpeter, who had a scarlet coat,
and a great periwig, tied about with the tail of a dead pig.

The meter uses Latin vowel quantities for the Latin parts, and to some extent follows English stress in the English parts.
Another variant has similar lines in a different order:

Stormum surgebat et boatum oversetebat Excipe John Periwig tied up to the tail of a dead pig.[7]

The meaning here is "The storm rose up and overturned the boat" and "Except for John Periwig", etc.

Caesar adsum jam forte
Brutus aderat
Caesar sic in omnibus
Brutus sic in at

which, when read aloud using traditional English pronunciation of Latin, sounds like the following:

Caesar 'ad [had] some jam for tea
Brutus 'ad a rat
Caesar sick in omnibus
Brutus sick in 'at [hat]

but which means in Latin

I, Caesar, am already here by chance
Brutus was present
Caesar thus in all things
Brutus thus in but

  • The following spoof of legal Latin, in the fictional case of Daniel v Dishclout (from George Alexander Stevens' "Lecture on Heads", 1765),[9] describes a kitchen:

camera necessaria pro usus cookare, cum saucepannis, stewpannis, scullero, dressero, coalholo, stovis, smoak-jacko; pro roastandum, boilandum, fryandum, et plumpudding mixandum, pro turtle soupos, calve's-head-hashibus, cum calipee et calepashibus.

In English, this is:

A necessary room for the purpose of cooking, with saucepans, stewpans, scullery, dresser, coalhole, stoves, smoke-jack; for roasting, boiling, frying, and mixing plum pudding, for turtle soups, calves'-head hashes, with calipee and calipashes.

  • The Red Green Show closes each episode with the recitation of the Possum Lodge motto, Quando omni flunkus moritati - which can be translated as "When all else fails, play dead".
  • Finnish death metal band Omnium Gatherum gets its name from 1500s era butchered Latin meaning "a hodgepodge of various things".
  • The title of death/folk metal Verbal Deception's debut album Aurum Aetus Piraticus is Dog Latin for "Golden Age of Piracy".
  • The songs of Era, a musical project by Eric Lévi, are usually in Latin-sounding gibberish.
  • The magazine name Atlas Obscura is not proper Latin.
  • A running gag in the series of Looney Tunes cartoons starring Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner assigns different fake Dog Latin species names in each episode to Wile E. Coyote and the Road Runner.[10] The actual Latin species names for the coyote and road runner were used in a 2003 episode of the series, The Whizzard of Ow.
  • The Warhammer 40,000 wargame universe makes frequent use of pseudo-latin (which is referred to in-universe as 'High Gothic') in its product names and background material. This is to protect copyright as much as for artistic reasons, as Games Workshop (the games producers) found they were unable to trademark generic terms such as 'space marine' or 'imperial guard'.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "Brewer, E. Cobham. Dictionary of Phrase & Fable. Dog-Latin". Bartleby.com. Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  2. ^ OED s.v. "dog," compounds C3a
  3. ^ "What's the origin of pig Latin?". The Straight Dope. 1 June 2004. Retrieved 22 May 2022.
  4. ^ Letter to John Adams, 08/10/1815, Gutenberg.org
    I had supposed them defunct with the society of Jesuits, of which they were: and that their works, although above ground, were, from their bulk and insignificance, as effectually entombed on their shelves, as if in the graves of their authors. Fifty-two volumes in folio, of the acta sanctorum, in dog-Latin, would be a formidable enterprise to the most laborious German.
  5. ^ S.O.M.A., Soma's Dictionary of Latin Quotations, Maxims and Phrases, 2010, ISBN 1425144977, s.v.
  6. ^ Notes and Queries. Books.google.com. October 13, 1855. Retrieved January 16, 2010.
  7. ^ Percival Leigh (1840). The comic Latin grammar. Charles Tilt. p. 152. Retrieved January 16, 2010.
  8. ^ Willans, Geoffrey; Searle, Ronald (1953). Down with Skool!. London: Max Parrish.
  9. ^ George Alexander Stevens, Frederick Pilon (22 May 1802). "A Lecture on Heads". Printed by T. Bensley for Vernor and Hood [etc .] Retrieved 22 May 2022 – via Internet Archive.
  10. ^ "Roadrunner&Coyote". Home.ku.edu.tr. Retrieved 22 May 2022.