Not now, but during past hour

Pas de résumé, désolée.

Following the link to the World Meteorological Organization chart of weather symbols in Roger Shuy’s LL post, I wonder if Eskimos there are people who have a word for any of the following concepts: “freezing drizzle or rain (not showers), not now but during (the) past hour” or “fog, sky not discernible, and has become thinner during (the) past hour” [including the delightfully vague subject reference], or indeed “snow showers, not now, but during past hour”.

Because even if we have no word for it, the WMO sure has a symbol for it.

London Signage 03: m*ta-avoidance

Les mis en garde du métro londonien contre un comportement agressif des voyageurs utilisent la typographie et le remplacement de voyelles par des signes autrement plus habituellement utilisés pour camoufler les jurons.

Since last year, Transport for London has been running a series of posters aiming at improving passengers’ behaviour. To soften the underlying stern injunctions (”Don’t push!”, “Don’t block the closing doors to squeeze in at the last moment!”, “Keep your music volume down!”, “Don’t eat smelly or drippy food on the Tube!”), the designers have added graphical elements to the lettering — playing with fonts, molding the typography into cute little signs: the dripping fat from a portion of fries, the sound waves emanating from an iPod.

Here is the poster that deals with aggression towards Tube employees:

Transport for London anti-aggression signage

This is the first time I’ve seen a semiotic usage of the avoidance characters outside comic strips. By replacing some vowels with an asterisk, an exclamation mark and an at-sign, a layer of meaning is added to the otherwise somewhat cryptic statement “Don’t take it out on our staff”. The smaller print refers to assault, but given the visual effect, I’m sure verbal abuse is covered, too, by this warning.

Unus, solus, totus, ullus…

Un nouveau quiz sur Language Log: ré-écrire la devise des État-Unis, E pluribus unum … en latin.

There’s another quiz up at Language Log, this time set by Geoffrey Pullum.

The task is to rewrite the USA motto E pluribus unum (”out of many, one”, representing the union of the original 13 states) to signify the converse “out of one, many” — in Latin.

I’m a bit hesitant to offer my solution. The idea to be presented with Dan Brown novels as a prize is just too scary. But still, let’s not chicken out!

First step, e or ex? Well, ex is always fine, e only before consonants, I think, and the next word is a form of unus so it’s ex. And ex takes the ablative case, so it’s ex uno.

Now, how to transform pluribus? It could be in the accusative case here, the object of an elided verb (”Let’s make one[many] out of many[one]”). On the other hand, the nominative case would fit as well (”From the multitude[unity] springs unity[multitude]”). Not that it helps much, as for both the masculine/feminine form plures and the neuter plura, the nominative form is the same as the accusative.

So what gender do we choose? It depends on whether, in the original, unum is the attribute of something (a state, a nation), or if it refers to the abstract, unity, the condition of being one. I’d go for the latter, but we’re not finished, because I’m not sure that Latin would use the neuter plural plura to refer to the corresponding several-ness. In other words, I’d be asking plura/several what, and we are back to the missing noun. If that noun’s gender is neuter — or if the abstract can be used in the plural –, the solution is plura, otherwise it’s plures.

For the elided noun (if there is one), I come up with natio (feminine) or populus (masculine), or civitas (feminine). Neither fits with the neuter unum in the original motto.

Final submission:

  1. Ex uno plura (with the original neuter adjective)
  2. Ex uno plures [nationes]

P.S.: I’m surprised Geoffrey Pullum doesn’t mention the origin of the motto. It probably came from a sort of 18th century Reader’s Digest called Gentlemen’s Magazine, which was widely read by the elites. This is not a lofty classical quote.

P.P.S.: The title of this post refers to a mnemotechnic aid (Eselsbrücke in German, i.e. a bridge for donkeys) used by German learners of Latin to remember which adjectives/quantifiers take the ending -ius in the genitive case and ī in the dative case. It goes like this:

Unus, solus, totus, ullus,
uter, alter, neuter, nullus,
alius erfordern alle
ius in dem zweiten Falle,
und im dritten setze sie
stets mit einem langen i.

P.P.P.S.: I wonder if I should tell the amusing story about how I got my copy of The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language…