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Monday, 1 June 2009

Have you ever wondered ....

There is a lot of fun to be had if you have a smattering of Latin and can translate some of the mottos you encounter on coats of arms, particularly the more recent ones. I was reminded of this when someone asked recently what the motto of Hogwarts School of Wizardry and Witchcraft meant. I had to admit that I had never actually looked at it so I had to go digging and found -

Draco dormiens nunquam titilandus.

Well, I only did Latin at school for six months and have regretted not doing it for longer ever since. So out came the dictionary (Latin/English) and a few other reference books. I could, of course, have Googled it, but my way was more challenging. Anyway it translates as -

Never tickle a sleeping dragon.

Which put me in mind of my old school motto which was the subject of endless speculation -

Palma virtuti. which, as boys, we were told meant the "Palms to the virtuous" or "Palm of virtue" neither of which seemed particularly inspiring, so it was refreshing to hear a speech to a reunion some years after I had finished school by the then holder of the title from which the school took its name that it was actually a dig at the first Earl by the College of Heralds and was translated by the family as "The virtuous Palmer".

Some of the funnier ones of course come from Pratchett's Discworld novels and my favourite is the arms of the Watch which reads -

Fabricate diem, Punc

There is probably no need to translate that! But if there is, think, Dirty Harry.

Then there is the Unseen University, modelled on Oxbridge of course, and whose motto is -

Nunc id vides; Nunc ne vides

It even looks like the Oxford University emblem. Except for the motto.....

But my personal favourite was the one adopted unofficially by my officers and men at our very busy fire station, one which covered a huge area packed with industrial plants and hazards and low end social housing - and I mean low end.

Sumus semper in excretum, sed alta variat.

Summed us up rather well I thought, and nothing much has changed since.

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