Seize the Latin

How’s your Latin? Do you have a motto you live by? Tell us by commenting below.

The topic of mottos came up at work the other day.

A mate mentioned his sporting team’s catch-cry was something like “captite non captivos”.

Roughly translated: “No Prisoners.’’

Not bad for a sporting war cry.

Lawrence of Arabia overtones. Slightly intuitive. And most important, constructed in bastardised Latin.

For some reason, no other language will do when it comes to mottos.

Ambling onto Harry Edwards Oval shouting “banzai’’ just wouldn’t sound right. Similarly “achtung’’ or “you’re dead meat’’. It’s gotta be Latin. A fact well recognised by Hollywood.

In Dead Poets Society for instance, teacher John Keating (Robin Williams) urged his foppy rich-kid students to “seize the day”.

But screaming that out would have come across a bit naff. So screenwriter Tom Schulman substituted ‘‘carpe diem’’ and won an Oscar.

Why was it so? Because people are impressed by Latin-sounding stuff. It sounds classy.

To which I say: ‘‘Ego chip meus umerus humerus’’ (I have a chip on my shoulder the size of Tasmania).

Not because of the school I went to. More the fact that average movies get critical acclaim with poncey catch-cries.

Dude, Where’s My Car would have won the Palme d’Or if it had been called “Homo Hominis Qua Meus Vehiculum”.

Wanky-sounding incantations were certainly the making of the Harry Potter franchise.

When Harry wanted to disarm a rival wizard, instead of screaming ‘‘drop it’’, we got ‘‘expelliarmus’’. When he wanted to lift something, “wingardium leviosa’’.

I just wish the director had screamed ‘‘wrap it uppicus sooner than laterus’’ during Deathly Hallows Pt 1.

But no, ‘‘milk it ad finitum’’ was the subtext of those two hours of my life I’ll never get back.

Having said that, it’s important to distinguish between movies and real life. And there was nothing more down-to-earth than my old high school motto.

‘‘Pergo, Perago, Periclitor’’.

The three Ps: strive, persevere, endure.

Have a go, stick at it, suck it up.

Talk about stoic! I guess the NSW education department wanted to keep expectations realistic.

It’s held me in good stead, I suppose. As hopes and dreams seemingly destined to touch the sun when young arc alarmingly earthwards the older I get, those three Ps are really starting to resonate.

Leaves me pondering my rather unreliable online Latin-English translator.

‘‘Ego reputo proinde ego sum catatonum.’’

I think therefore I am ... slightly depressed?

Well, not ’’catatonum’’ as such, but definitely prone to outbursts of ‘‘sarcasmus’’, the lowest form of wit.

Not to worry. As mentioned earlier, dress any phrase up in Latin and it’ll sound ‘‘cleverus’’.

For instance, someone approaches you at work. Menial work, let’s say, due no doubt to the underwhelming school motto you were exposed to as a child.

They ask you to do something you don’t want to – again.

“Not my job” hardly sounds noble. Fear not.

Latin it up. “Non meus officium.’’ And deliver with a Peter O’Toole flourish. People will give you a wide berth for sure. You may even develop a mystique of being ‘‘difficult’’. And is there any better mystique to have at work if you want to bludge?

This phenomenon has led to the development over the years of my own Homer-esque mantra – “Carpe cerevisi” – seize the beer!

I couldn’t find a Latin word for ‘‘whateverrrrrr’’.

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