Latin semi-literacy

Subject: Latin semi-literacy
From: Jennifer Rondeau <angelicatech -at- yahoo -dot- com>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 5 Jul 2004 11:42:03 -0700 (PDT)

With apologies for re-opening a discussion that should
probably remain closed at this point, I can restrain
myself no longer. For a presumably careful and
technically detail-oriented group, this one has let
slide some, shall we say, sloppy things in the name of
translation. As John P. suggested, it's a good thing
we're not building a wall.

So let's have a literal tutorial:

Omnia numquam tan aspera sunt quam videntur.


Everything is never as (reading tam for tan) difficult
(rough) as it seems to be.

Although the meaning in English is subtly different,
"Nothing is ever" does in fact translate "Everything
is never," given the exigencies of Latin grammar. So
that part's ok. Moving on:

"Hard," particularly with the overtones suggested by
Linda in her summary, does *not* translate "aspera"
("difficult"). "Rough" (in the sense of "uneven") is
etymologically the most faithful word choice. Many
derivations of "asper" carry the sexual overtones
Linda seems to have been pointing to in her last
comment, but they do not correspond to the direct
simplicity of "hard" at all. "Difficult," however
relatively prim, is the standard modern English
translation of "aspera" in common mottoes like this
one. (Think of "Ad astra per aspera," for example.
Lest we proliferate the discussion, I'll translate:
"To the stars with difficulty." Yes, I suppose one
could gloss that one as "You can be all you want to
be," too, but let's not. See below.)

A number of translations seem to have ignored the
"numquam" ("never") part of the tag.

I cannot see how one gets from the difficulty or
roughness and seeming of a thing to being whatever one
wants to be. (See above.)

Pedantically yours,

who has about exhausted her recollection of Latin at
this point, but who still *loves* dictionaries . . .

Jennifer Rondeau
Documentation Lead
Lunar Logic, Inc.

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