School boy, you are dead meat!

phil170258

New Member
Hi,

I'm a published author currently working on a series of novels for teenage readers.

In the novel I'm working on my character receives a text message in Latin, which is a translation of the English 'School boy, you are dead meat!'.

The sense, of course, is that this is a death threat (and in the context of the novel, a very real one.)

I intend to have some fun at the expense of Internet Translators ie my character will enter whatever Latin you good people come up with into one of these and not understand the result. So he will have no choice but to approach the school Latin teacher, a somewhat forbidding figure.

One final complication: I would like the Latin to be not quite correct, to have something slightly wrong that this (somewhat pedantic) Latin teacher could point out

hope I've made sense and that i haven't stereotyped too many teachers of Latin!

thanks
Phil
 

Adamas

New Member
Literally: discipule, caro mortua es!

Aside from the fact that this isn't a Roman expression (that I know of), there are a variety of ways you could add other errors to it. I could imagine a student accidentally saying discipulus (the nominative) in place of discipule (the vocative). One might also accidentally say caro mortua est ('the meat has died!'). A true pedant might complain that a threat should take the future tense rather than the present: caro mortua eris ('you shall be dead meat!'), or better yet caro mortua fies ('you shall become dead meat!').
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
I was thinking that changing mortua to mortuus would be a good mistake - caro doesn't show that it's feminine through noun endings, and mistaking it for masculine is believable.

Now, down to details... I don't think that a professor would translate "discipulus" to "school boy", so this gives us a chance to use another phrase that the teacher will complain about being "too literal" - puer scholae. If you really want to ruffle his feathers, you could make it puer schola, which would be like saying "boy, being a school".

If you punch these into Google Translate, or better yet , Intertran, you will see how the machine translations would look.

phil170258 dixit:
hope I've made sense
Made sense to me :)

and that i haven't stereotyped too many teachers of Latin!
Actually, I think that it's spot-on, for just about all of us :p
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
I'm double-posting to be sure that you see this (in case you already read my last post) - I realize that you probably don't want to over-do it with the errors, so I'll sum up the believable ones listed -

"Base" phrases to choose from:

Disipule, caro mortua es
Puer scholae, caro mortua es

(Discipule means "student", while puer scholae is a literal translation of "school boy". That is an over-literal translation that any teacher would disapprove of.[/i]

Too literal
A professor might consider the translation as a whole to be too literal, since the Romans didn't use this phrase. I bet that a Roman would have at least had some idea as to what the phrase meant... but they might have just thought that it was a rude way to call someone old.

Gender mix-up
Caro, "flesh" or "meat", is a feminine noun, which is why mortua, "dead", follows it. Since caro's gender isn't obvious, it is possible for someone to mistake it for masculine or neuter, changing mortua to mortuus or mortuum, respectively.

Verb tense

As Adamas suggested, the teacher might not approve of it being in the present tense. However, I am pretty sure that mortua is a past participle, meaning that it can't just be changed to future tense, meaning that rather than caro mortua eris, it should be caro moritura es... I think that ". . . mortua fies" would work, though. I'm trying not to think too much about it, you see, that hurts my head :p

Noun case

If you use discipule (meaning that you don't mind it not translating directly to "school boy"), you can use Adamas's other suggestion and change it to discipulus. This is a very easy and very common mistake for beginning Latin students - discipule is used when addressing a student (called the "vocative", often translated to "O student"), while discipulus is used when talking about a student (called the "nominative", translated as "A/The student").

One last note

I would ignore my suggestion to replace scholae with schola - that is kind of excessive, and would almost render it unintelligible.

Even though the phrase will be "too literal" no matter what, it wouldn't be legitimately "wrong" as is. It wouldn't hurt to throw in at least one of the suggested errors.

Finally

Would you mind letting us know when the book is published, and where we might find it? I know that I'd be interested in reading a book that was in some way influenced by our community :)
 

Adamas

New Member
Nikolaos dixit:
As Adamas suggested, the teacher might not approve of it being in the present tense. However, I am pretty sure that mortua is a past participle, meaning that it can't just be changed to future tense, meaning that rather than caro mortua eris, it should be caro moritura es... I think that ". . . mortua fies" would work, though. I'm trying not to think too much about it, you see, that hurts my head :p
Mortuus is the past participle of 'to die,' not 'to be dead.' Mori means 'to die' right now, whereas to say 'to be dead' without reference to when it occurs, you need mortuus esse. So what is in origin a past participle meaning 'having died' can just as easily be treated as a present adjective meaning 'being dead.' Compare noscere ('to become acquainted with') with its perfect form no(vi)sse ('to know'), which in origin meant 'to have become acquainted with.'

So: caro moritura es means 'you are meat that is going to die,' or 'you are meat that is about to die.' This is different in meaning from caro mortua eris, which means 'you will be meat that has died.' In the former case you're already meat, and soon shall be dead meat. In the latter case you're neither dead nor meat, but will soon become both. Since 'meat' is being used in this case to emphasize the deadness, the latter is more accurate. For the same reason, caro moritura eris is doubly wrong, since it is saying 'you will soon be meat, and sometime afterward you will die.' (Oh, and feel free to use this example of pedantry in the mouth of your professor too, if you prefer it to the many other options. :p)

Also, we should be clear that discipulus is not an incorrect word for 'schoolboy.' It means 'student.' Puer scholae, on the other hand, is a made-up term that's never been in use in any period of Latin. I think discipulus captures the sense adequately, but if you want a more exact phrase Facciolati et al. have puer in ludum litterarium itans, or simply tiro ('beginner').
 

phil170258

New Member
Wow!

Absolute gold, so many thanks.

discipule, caro mortua es

gets translated by Google into:

apprentice, but the flesh art dead

which is perfectly stupid for my means, which means my hero but will have no choice but to approach the dreaded Latin master.

The book is the first in a series called The Debt, and will probably be published in Australia in later half of next year. As for other countries, that depends on how good my agent is in getting deals!

While I'm here - whenever I do talks at schools and the kids ask me where I get my inspiration my stock answer is 'coffee' (which isn't too far from the truth).

So what would be the latin for 'In coffee there is inspiration''?

Again, thanks for your wonderful replies

Phillip
 

Adamas

New Member
Authorities disagree on how best to translate 'coffee,' which, as you can imagine, is a popular term. :) Traupman has caffeum, while Wikipedia seems to like coffeum, and there are a variety of other options. So translations include in caffeo musa or in coffeo inflammatio animi, etc. Glad to be of help!
 

Matthaeus

Vemortuicida strenuus
Some experienced Latinists on Schola use potio arabica.
 

scrabulista

Consul
Staff member
I thought I had responded to this but I guess not.

I assume the student in question is high school/college rather than grade school? I thought homunculus (homuncule in the vocative) ("little man," can be a term of contempt.)

I had also stumbled across caput mortuum = "dead head," a chemistry term meaning the worthless residue of certain chemical reactions. It seems threatening and insulting at the same time.
 

phil170258

New Member
scrabulista dixit:
I thought I had responded to this but I guess not.

I assume the student in question is high school/college rather than grade school? I thought homunculus (homuncule in the vocative) ("little man," can be a term of contempt.)

I had also stumbled across caput mortuum = "dead head," a chemistry term meaning the worthless residue of certain chemical reactions. It seems threatening and insulting at the same time.

yes, he's 15 yo so definitely high school-actuallyhe's attending a very exclusive (ie expensive) private school

I like both your suggestions - how would the whole sentence look if they were incorporated?


thanks, Phil
 

scrabulista

Consul
Staff member
homuncule, es caput mortuum!

I see "Caput Mortuum" is a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson. Don't ask me to explain it though.
 

phil170258

New Member
scrabulista dixit:
homuncule, es caput mortuum!

I see "Caput Mortuum" is a poem by Edwin Arlington Robinson. Don't ask me to explain it though.

which Google translates as: little man, are the head of the corpse!


which is also appropriately stupid for my purpose



thanks for that
Phillip
 

Nikolaos

schmikolaos
Staff member
I'm not thinking clearly right now, just got up. What will we say is the "error" in that version?


Sent via Tapatalk
 

Portia

New Member
You're a published writer? Sweet! :D (I hope to be a published writer someday.) And I love your idea of having the character recieve a message in Latin and have to go to the Latin teacher...brilliant.

I'm not particularly good at translating Latin, but I was thinking, what error you choose for the text message ought to accurately reflect the character of the person who sends the text message. (Or at least the character of the person who writes the message that got sent.) If the character isn't the type to make an error in Latin, then I wouldn't reccomend having them make an error. Probably you have already thought of that, but I thought I'd mention it since all writers make mistakes sometimes. It always bugs me when villians in stories do things just for the plot's sake or something, and not because that's what they actually would have done.

Anyway, best of luck with your novel!
 

Imprecator

Civis Illustris
Well, for one thing es caput has cannibalistic overtones (especially since mortuum is also the syncopated gen. plural).
 

Decimus Canus

Civis Illustris
Imprecator dixit:
Well, for one thing es caput has cannibalistic overtones (especially since mortuum is also the syncopated gen. plural).
For phil170258 who may be scratching his own caput now, es can mean the command "eat" as well as "you are". Mortuorum is genitive plural meaning "of the dead" but is sometimes shortened to mortuum.

Es caput mortuum = "You are a dead head" but arguably "Eat the head of the dead".
 

scrabulista

Consul
Staff member
The alchemy meaning is not likely to be found in a typical Latin dictionary/online translator site. That might be enough for the Latin teacher to point out.

However someone clever enough to know the alchemy reference would be expected to know Latin grammar too.

Maybe you could do something like:

homuncule, es kaput mortuum!

(Deliberate misspelling of caput, with a play on words of German-derived slang meaning "ruined.")
 

Adamas

New Member
Fantastic as it is to be able to fit eleven or twelve layers of subtle overlapping meaning and webs of inter-linguistic wordplay into the phrase, I'm not sure Phillip's readers will be as familiar with chemistry puns and ancient Latin homophones as they will be with the phrase 'you're dead meat.' :p The few who were able to translate it would certainly just think it was a Grateful Dead reference.
 

scrabulista

Consul
Staff member
Adamas, you've either discovered the thirteenth layer or a good reason to abandon the line.

Phil,

Could you tell us a bit more about the villain? Maybe there's a myth we can use. One that comes to mind is Lycaon but there are others.

atque ita semineces partim ferventibus artus mollit aquis, partim subiecto torruit igni. -- Ovid, Metamorphoses, I. 228-229.
"and thus partly he softened the half-dead limbs in boiling waters, partly he roasted in an open fire." Lycaon ends up getting turned into a werewolf though.

If you've got some female characters among the villains you could use the story of Medea and Pelias, or the Maenads and Pentheus or Orpheus.
 
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