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The Only Good Language

Lingua Ratina!

"Lingua Ratina!"

The National Atheist Party is an American political party that started up not too long ago. Naturally, I looked into it thinking that it would be right up my alley! We atheists need more representation in government.

Well, it turns out that, for the most part, I am on board with them in terms of their actual goals. But there is just one thing that bothers me about them.

Their Latin motto:

The Latin on it is such complete gibberish that I could never figure out what it is trying to say. It looks like they just ran some English phrase through a translator, and doing such a thing never works out well.

Seriously, folks, hire someone who knows some Latin to come up with a motto for you. There are plenty of people out there. We Latinists are not an extinct species. Heck, I would not mind helping you! If I can take part in eliminating unnecessary abuses of my favorite ancient language, the happier I (and so many other Latinists) will be!

Sure, one could argue that since not many people know Latin nowadays, and people are not going to notice the glaring errors in your motto, but if that is the case, why use a language that is meant to convey actual meaning? Language exists to facilitate communication, not to hinder it. If you want to have a Latin-ish sounding motto, you could go the humorous route and stick -us on the ends of all the words. I find the whole Biggus Dickus thing absolutely hilarious, not only because it is, indeed, Latin-sounding, but it is a bit of a jab at the practice of adding -us and -ius to modern words and names, as seen in the scientific names of plants and animals.

But enough of my ranting and raving! What is wrong with the motto as it is? What is it trying to say? How can it be corrected?

It is hard to figure out what Ex Plures Mens A Singulus Visum actually means because the morphological forms of the words are wrong at every level. I cannot really say which word could even be the subject. It looks like the phrase is trying to mean, "a mind out of many, away from a single vision," but that would be (if we were to use the same individual words):

Mens E Pluribus, A Visu Singulari

That does not make a whole lot of sense, but at least the grammar and syntax works.

Mens is nominative and singular, and means "mind," "intellect," etc.

Plures is nominative and plural, and means "more" or "many." But when it is used with the preposition ex/e, it must be in the ablative: pluribus. Hence, E Pluribus Unum, "Out of Many, One."

Singulus, "single" or "separate," is more usual in the plural: singuli, -ae, -a. When we are dealing with a singular noun like visus, I think we ought to be using singularis instead of singuli.

Visum is accusative and singular of visus, "vision" or "sight."

When nouns and adjectives are used with the preposition ab/a, "away from," they are in the ablative case: visu singulari.

After digging around a bit, I found that the phrase is supposed to say, "Many Voices Speaking as One." In that case, they ought to have something like this:

Voces Plures Dicentes In Unum

Voces is nominative plural of vox, "voice."

Plures is agreeing with voces.

Dicentes is a participle, "speaking," and agrees with voces.

In unum, literally, "into one," is a way to render "as one."

Normally, I do not really care whether the people who are in charge of creating these mottos even ever read and consider my comments. In this case, however, things are different. If National Atheist Party people going to be representing me in politics, it seems to me that I ought to take an active role in encouraging them to pay attention to my criticisms.

After all, do we rationalistic atheists not pride ourselves in our honesty and accuracy? Do we not attempt to right wrongs when we are called out? Is it not our responsibility to respond rationally to criticisms, even ones that seem minor?

Please, National Atheist Party, please consider correcting your motto!
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Sailor Saturn/Hotaru Tomoe

November 2013



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