Latin conversation in the movie Tombstone

By Anonymous, in 'Latin to English Translation', Jul 28, 2009.

  1. Anonymous Guest

    Hello all,
    I am a new member of the forum. I don't know much latin but I love it's "directness". I have always wanted to know the translation of a latin conversation in the movie Tombstone. My kids love this movie so I see it more than I should. It stars several well known actors and is a good "Guy" movie. Getting to the point, what does this have to do with latin?: there is a scene where a very intoxicated Doc Holiday (Val Kilmer) is being confronted by one of the primary 'bad guys', Johnny Ringo (Michael Biehn), in a saloon where Wyatt Earp (Kurt Russell) is the dealer behind a farrow table. Holiday has just said something uncomplimentary to Ringo and Wyatt Earp tries to smooth things by saying "don't mind him he's just drunk". Then Holiday says under his breath as he takes a drink, "in vino veritas" and to his great surprise Ringo answers him in latin and then a short latin conversation ensues. Obviously, very few gunslingers (or anyone else) in the "old west" spoke latin. I have always wanted to know the translation of the rest of this conversation. If anyone knows this I would love to hear it. There is a clip where the scene can be viewed at this web address: ... s-10913701
    The latin begins about half way through the clip. Thanks and have a good day.
  2. Decimvs Aedilis

    • Aedilis
    Re: Translate latin conversation in the movie Tombstone

    Here is a detailed explanation that I took from another site:

    Doc : In vino veritas.
    Ringo : Age quod agis.
    Doc : Credat Judaeus Apella, non ego.
    Ringo : Juventus stultorum magister.
    Doc : In pace requiescat!

    Doc : In wine there is truth.

    Doc Holiday is excusing his own behavior here, and further insulting Johnny Ringo by saying that he is drunk, and saying truthful things he would otherwise not reveal. He had previously said he hated Johnny Ringo for being similar to himself.

    Ringo : Do what you do / Watch what you do.

    This is one of the most interesting lines because it means more than just watch what you do. The line can be interpreted as be careful, or people do what they do (saying that Doc Holiday is drunk because he is a drunkard), and it can also mean something along the lines of do what you do best, which would be gunfight since Ringo had apparently heard of Holiday's skill. It is a challenge and an insult combined into one.

    Doc : Tell it to someone else, not I.

    This line is dismissive. Doc Holiday is conveying the fact that he doesn't care what Johnny Ringo is saying and that he doesn't care what his advice is.

    A common Latin saying meaning "Let the Jew Apella believe it; not I". The phrase means, roughly, tell it to someone else, not me.

    The reference is taken from the work Satires (book one, satire five) by ancient poet Horace. It is derived from a scene where people try to convince travellers of miracles happening at their shrines. The phrase is uttered to convey the disbelief and that they should tell their stories to someone else.

    Ringo : Youth is the teacher of fools.

    When Ringo taps his pistol he says this, which conveys the idea that Doc Holiday is inexperienced (youthfull) and ignorant of the danger he is getting himself into.

    "Juventus stultorum magister" is a common Latin aphorism, or phrase that has many implied and implicit meanings. The sentance translates to "youth is the teacher of fools".

    Juventus isn't really a latin word, they didn't use the letter 'J' so it is really Iuventus, which is in the nominative case (subject of the sentence), and it means youth or adolescence.

    Stultorum is a latin derivation of the word stultus, stulti which means fool. The "orum" ending places it in the genative case, used (most frequently) to show possesion. Hence of fools.

    Magister literally means teacher or schoolmaster. It is in the Nominative case as well.

    There is an implied transitive verb such as "is" which would require the nominative case on both sides of the verb. Hence we have: "Youth is the teacher of fools".

    Doc : Rest in peace!

    To end the conversation Doc Holiday throws the previous warning back into Ringo's face. Doc tells him to rest in peace, or to die, because Ringo is unaware of the danger that Doc presents.

    The conversation, at first, does not seem to flow well, but there are several hidden meanings and ideas being passed back and forth. The use of these Latin phrases carries a lot of symbolism and meaning in the way they were used here. Now you know what the phrases translate, so go watch it again, this time with the knowledge of what they say so you can find the hidden implications of their conversation.

    Also, I don't like their flow or pronunciation.
  3. Anonymous Guest

    Re: Translate latin conversation in the movie Tombstone

    Thank you very much. That was an excellent explanation. I had hoped they had put some real thought into that dialog, rather than just stringing together some latin phrases with no real flow. I knew what "in vino veritas" meant, and it's so true, but the rest of it, with the dual meanings, interpretations, and implications is great. Those characteristics exist in any language but to me it's one of the things that makes latin great. Thanks again, -RCJ
  4. TheMouseAvenger New Member

    Winnie, TX
    Wow, I finally understand what Ringo & Holliday are talking about! ^_^ Now, I won't have to watch the 'Latin conversation' scene in a state of utter confusion ever again! :D Decimus, you're my hero! :)
  5. Adrian Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris

    hoc est responsum laudandum
  6. Adrian Civis Illustris

    • Civis Illustris
    Here is a video I found on YouTube (referring to Tombstone "latin conversation" between Johnny Ringo and Doc Holiday) with "conceptual subtitles" (Very similar to explanations provided by Decimvs )
  7. Inticed New Member

    Fantastic translation Above indeed! One thing I thought was cool about Doc's final remark was HOW he says rest in peace. When you hear it commonly stated it is worded "Requiescat in Pace" which literally is "Rest in Peace" but the connotation behind putting peace first suggest a very matter of fact definitive I will be your demise, like he telling him point blank "In Peace you WILL rest!" killer scene my favorite Val Kilmer role!
  8. gindest New Member

    Thanks to all posters.

    For years I have wondered at what phrases were being said by Doc and Johnny Ringo after "In vino veritas" (a common Latin phrase used to excuse insults on the basis that the sayer was drunk and the wine made him accidentally state the truth). I agree that the pronunciation was such that I could never understand more than a few of their words.

    You wonder why the movie editors did not include the English translations on the screen, except that so much of the flavor of the Latin maxims would be lost.

    However, what the entire exchange between Doc and Johnny indicates, shockingly so, is that not only is Doc Holliday a very well educated man (as we all knew anyway), but that Johnny Ringo, the murderer and outlaw, was also a well and classically educated man and not just a thug.

    I believe the phrase uttered by Johnny Ringo "Juvenataus stultorum magister" was meant to be an insult to Doc, who should have been the senior person and was certainly the better known gunslinger with a reputation at that point in time, that he (Johnny Ringo, the younger) would be willing to teach the older and more experienced Doc Holliday (the magister) a lesson.

    The last phrase uttered by Doc is chilling in that it tells Johnny Ringo to "rest in peace" the phrase that is often carved on tombstones ("R.I.P.").

    Please pardon my less than literal translations ye teachers of Latin.

    Thank you all for helping give more meaning to this great movie.
  9. Poldori New Member

    The last line is actually "May it rest in peace" referring to youth.
  10. Jasper58 New Member

    I loved the movie, and especially that scene. It's a shame he didn't win an Oscar for his performance as Doc Holjday. I think he got ripped off. But that's Hollywood for ya. It's all about who you know.
  11. scrabulista Consul

    • Consul
    It could be "May he rest in peace," referring to Ringo.
    The same line is in Poe's "Cask of Amontillado."
  12. Anthony Stanley New Member

    I've learned that Greek and Latin were commonly taught in public grammar schools as early as the 6th grade up to at least the 1890s, so while contemporary Americans might find it shocking that Johnny Ringo knew Latin it was not uncommon for people who didn't even graduate from high school to be knowledgeable in classical languages. Clearly, Ringo was a murderous thug at that point in his life, but he had a normal upbringing at least until he was 14, when his father was killed by the accidental discharge of a shotgun. It wouldn't be at all surprising that he had an education that included classical languages.
  13. Josephus Latinus New Member

    I am so delighted by this thread - that I stumbled across by accident - that I have been compelled to sign up to this wonderful site to express my immense gratitude: to RCJ for the original post and to all those of you who have contributed to the discussion of the dialogue, particularly Decimus for such an excellent illumination of the language and decoding of the subtext.

    I agree that the pronunciation and delivery are not what one would expect or hope (alas Val Kilmer sounds as though he doesn't understand what he's saying - much like underrehearsed actors delivering Shakespeare), making it difficult to distinguish what they're actually saying (particular thanks for your interpretation, Decimus!), but it made me think about historical Latin speakers during Roman times, the majority of whom would not have been native speakers of the language because of the huge geographical expansion from military conquests, so they would have had wildly varying accents and pronunciation. A friend once joked: "Do you think the Romans walked around with a dictionary all the time?" but many of those learning Latin as a foreign language probably did!

    When I think of the effect on aural understanding of even the small change that took place when I was learning Latin in the 70s-80s and the traditional pronunciation of the Latin 'v' as a contemporary English 'v' was changed to a 'w' sound, not to mention the fact that we are generally not taught Latin as a foreign language (which I now endeavour to incorporate as much as possible in my teaching!), it is unsurprising that it has taken Decimus' time and insight to make this scene comprehensible to those reading and contributing to this thread.

    I am also highly appreciative of the historical background information on these hugely well-known historical individuals on whom the film characters were based - both on this page and where I found Decimus' link hither.

    Thank you all so much - I shall share this discussion with my students!

    gratias ago!

    When Ringo says "magister" he puts his hand on his gun. I agree that he means that he represents "iuventus" (by the way, while Val Kilmer pronounces an English "J" for "Judaeus", Michael Biehn uses "y" for "iuventus") but is implying by that action that his gun is the "magister" (also Nominative) that is going to teach Doc Holliday, by implication one of the fools of "stultorum", a lesson - or at least pointing out what instrument is he is going to use to teach this particular fool.

    I think Poldori's interpretation is correct: that Holliday's "in pace requiescat" refers to "iuventus" - and by implication to Johnny Ringo.

    Excellent script!

Share This Page


Our Latin forum is a community for discussion of all topics relating to Latin language, ancient and medieval world.

Latin Boards on this Forum:

English to Latin, Latin to English translation, general Latin language, Latin grammar, Latine loquere, ancient and medieval world links.