Dogs: “Good Boy/Girl!”

By FERRATA, in 'English to Latin Translation', Sep 12, 2018.

  1. FERRATA Member

    How would I praise, and for that matter, admonish my dogs?

    Good Boy!
    Good Girl!
    Bad Boy!
    Bad Girl!

  2. R. Seltza Active Member

    Terra Solis Lapsi
    It seems like you're addressing your dogs but not exactly calling out to them in a conversational way...
    This makes me unsure if this situation would call for an exclamatory accusative or a vocative, so I'll just post translations for both & someone could come along & clarify.

    Exclamatory Accusative:
    Good Boy! = Puerum Bonum!
    Good Girl! = Puellam Bonam!
    Bad Boy! = Puerum Malum!
    Bad Girl! = Puellam Malam!

    Good Boy! = Puer Bone!
    Good Girl! = Puella Bona!
    Bad Boy! = Puer Male!
    Bad Girl! = Puella Mala!
  3. FERRATA Member

    Thinking about it I suppose it would help to know there is an implied part of the statement (see carrot brackets): “<You are a> good boy/girl; bad boy/girl!”
  4. Iáson Cívis Illústris

    • Civis Illustris
    It seems a bit strange to use puer/puella of an animal in Latin. Is this really a locution that can cross languages like that? Would it work in French or Spanish?

    (I don't know enough French or indeed any other Romance language to answer my own question. The closest parallel I can think of is that Japanese 子 can be used of animals as well as humans, but I don't know if いい子 would really be used equivalently to English 'good boy/girl' of dogs. At any rate, I can't find any examples of the affectionate address of animals in ancient literature; I suspect that catellus/catella would be more likely than puer/puella, though.)
  5. FERRATA Member


    In contravention to your post, I don’t see how the Romans wouldn’t have addressed their dogs as girl and boy. There are Roman tombs to dogs still extant that use just such words. They were hardly dissimilar to us in their affection for dogs.
  6. Cinefactus Censor

    • Censor
    litore aureo
    what is wrong with just saying, probus or proba?
  7. Dantius Homo Sapiens

    • Civis Illustris
    in orbe lacteo
    Out of curiosity, do you have a citation for this? I'd like to read these.
  8. FERRATA Member

    Dantius- I am having a hell of a time trying to copy a link for you, but if you Google “Roman Dog tombs”, you’ll see some terribly touching epitaphs. I have four wonderful dogs and can’t begin to imagine the grief I’ll feel when they pass to the Elysian Fields for pups. An example: I am in tears, while carrying you to your last resting place as much as I rejoiced when bringing you home in my own hands fifteen years ago

    Cinefactus- (My) Dogs will have the expectation of congratulations or censure + Boy/Girl. Probvs/a + my tone, I fear, will lack importance, i.e. intended effect, to them.

    I do want to add that all commands I give my dogs are in Latin but the Good/Bad Boy/Girl are the declarations that I cannot satisfactorily figure out on my own. Is there a consensus in this thread that I am missing? Are R. Seltza’s answers what I am looking for? And thank you R. Seltza!
  9. Iáson Cívis Illústris

    • Civis Illustris
    I'm not disputing that the Romans felt affection for their dogs. I'm just saying that this particular phrasing may not be a cross-linguistic constant.

    As FERRATA says, there are some websites which offer a selection in English. This is a good example.

    This, for example, is from the memorial of the dog Patricē. The Latin text (CIL X 659) is:

    Portāvī lacrimīs madidus tē, nostra catella,
    quod fēcī lustrīs laetior ante tribus.
    ergo mihī, Patricē, iam nōn dabis ōscula mīlle
    nec poteris collō grāta cubāre meō
    trīstis marmoreā posuī tē sēde merentem
    et iūnxī semper mānib(us) ipse meīs
    mōrib(us) argūtīs hominem similāre parātam;
    perdidimus quālēs, hei mihi, dēliciās.
    tū dulcis, Patricē, nostrās attingere mēnsās
    cōnsuerās, gremiō poscere blanda cibōs,
    lambere tū calicem linguā rapiente solēbās
    quem tibi saepe meae sustinuēre manūs,
    accipere et lassum caudā gaudente frequenter
    < >

    Image of part of the inscription:

    Compare also another quote from that webpage, a shorter epitaph:

    Helenae alumnae, animae incomparābilī et bene merentī.
    (image here)

    But note that in neither case was the word puer or puella used. This is not due to the metre, as in line 1 of the Patricē inscription puella would be metrically equivalent to catella. Furthermore, in the epitaph for Helena, the author chose to use alumna, 'foster child'. I am quite happy to be proved wrong, but none of the other epitaphs I followed up on the page provided any contrary evidence, with the possible exception of one, which turned out not to be an inscription at all, or even an epitaph, but Martial epigram 1.109:

    Issa est passere nēquior Catullī,
    Issa est pūrior ōsculō columbae,
    Issa est blandior omnibus puellīs,
    Issa est cārior Indicīs lapillīs,
    Issa est dēliciae catella Pūblī. 5
    Hanc tū, sī queritur, loquī putābis;
    sentit trīstitiamque gaudiumque.
    Collō nīxa cubat capitque somnōs,
    ut suspīria nūlla sentiantur;
    et dēsīderiō coācta uentris 10
    guttā pallia nōn fefellit ūllā,
    sed blandō pede suscitat torōque
    dēpōnī monet et rogat leuārī.
    Castae tantus inest pudor catellae,
    ignōrat Venerem; nec inuenīmus 15
    dignum tam tenerā uirum puellā.
    Hanc nē lūx rapiat suprēma tōtam,
    pictā Pūblius exprimit tabellā,
    in quā tam similem uidēbis Issam,
    ut sit tam similis sibī nec ipsa. 20
    Issam dēnique pōne cum tabellā:
    aut utramque putābis esse uēram,
    aut utramque putābis esse pictam.

    In line 3, puellīs should not be thought of as including Issa, any more than the sparrow, doves, or stones in parallel position in the surrounding lines. And in line 16, whilst Issa is described as tam tenera puella, this should be seen in the context of the metaphor, 'a husband (virum) worthy of so tender a girl': a borrowing from the conventional language of erotic verse. Whether or not we follow the interpretation of F. Fleck on the poem, which sees it as an exaggerated parody rather than a genuine example of the genre, it thus provides no evidence for the everyday use of puella of a dog, much less of *bona puella being a Latin equivalent of the English idiom.

    I don't think this is necessarily surprising. Note that in English, whilst 'good boy' or 'good girl' is relatively common as an address to dogs, we rarely find other expressions like 'good child', 'good baby', 'good man', 'good woman' used of them.

    Whereas, as we have seen, catella is entirely usual in contexts of canine affection, appearing both in inscriptions and in Martial. Note that catellus/catella is sometimes applied to humans as a term of endearment, and that it probably conveys such a sense in the Patricē epitaph, since Patricē was 15 years old and hardly a puppy any more.

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