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    Default Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    I've seen Libris Mortis frequently referred to as the "Book of Bad Latin".

    So I consulted my Latin books and, yes, if the title is intended to be "Book of Death" or "Book of the Dead", then it's way off. "Libris" is the dative/ablative plural of "Liber". Which is to say, it means either "from books" or "to/for books", depending on context.

    "Mortis" is fine, it's the genitive singular of "mors", meaning "of death" or "of corpse" or "of dead" or varations on that theme.

    So, "from/to/for books of death/dead", that's a preposterously terrible translation for "book of death". Case closed, right?

    Then I was reading Libris Mortis, and noticed the sidebar under the introduction:

    Quote Originally Posted by Libris Mortis
    This book takes its name from a set of tomes penned in a dialect of Celestial by an aasimar cleric of Pelor named Acrinus, who collected the information from a variety of other sources over the course of decades. Roughly translated, it means "From the Books of Dead", though some sages claim that the current name is a bastardization of Acrinus's original title. Since he's long dead, and the dialect of Celestial is no longer used by living creatures, this is impossible to confirm.
    So. Uh. "From the Books of Dead". Turns out the title does mean precisely what it's supposed to mean. (I was slightly suspicious of the use of the ablative to mean "from" without also including "ex", but then I confirmed that no, you can omit the preposition if you use the ablative of source, so that checks out.)

    (It's also supposed to be bastardized Celestial and not really Latin at all, so that it happens to be correct Latin could easily be treated as just a happy coincidence. But that's not really as important.)

    So: Am I missing some super-advanced nuance of the Latin language? Does "bad Latin" refer to some bad Latin found within the book, rather than the title? Or is the "Book of Bad Latin" meme simply the product of people who know Latin not reading the first page of the book and the people who don't know Latin just going along with the people who do?
    Last edited by Malimar; 2011-06-22 at 03:20 PM. Reason: corrected a typo

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Probably one of those things that's catchy to say and somebody came up with and next thing you know, everybody's using it without even thinking what it really means.
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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Because it's a play on Rigor Mortis. People groaned and it caught on.

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Just like It's Hot Outside, It's Cold Outside, It's Wet Outside, and It's Not Outside. It's a humorous little pet name.

    But you're right, I think a lot of people thought it was supposed to be "Book of the Dead". Heck, I always thought that. Learn something every day!
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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Big Fau View Post
    Because it's a play on Rigor Mortis. People groaned and it caught on.
    What would people say about this game then, when the main hero/villain(depending on your pow) is named Rigor Mortis?

    Mind you, it's one hell of a fun game though
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    This place is not a place of honor…no highly esteemed deed is commemorated here… nothing valued is here.
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    Book of shadows, book of night, wake the beast and banish light.

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Malimar View Post
    I've seen Libris Mortis frequently referred to as the "Book of Bad Latin".

    So I consulted my Latin books and, yes, if the title is intended to be "Book of Death" or "Book of the Dead", then it's way off. "Libris" is the dative/ablative plural of "Liber". Which is to say, it means either "from books" or "to/for books", depending on context.

    "Mortis" is fine, it's the genitive singular of "mors", meaning "of death" or "of corpse" or "of dead" or varations on that theme.

    So, "from/to/for books of death/dead", that's a preposterously terrible translation for "book of death". Case closed, right?

    Then I was reading Libris Mortis, and noticed the sidebar under the introduction:



    So. Uh. "From the Books of Dead". Turns out the title does mean precisely what it's supposed to mean. (I was slightly suspicious of the use of the ablative to mean "from" without also including "ex", but then I confirmed that no, you can omit the preposition if you use the ablative of source, so that checks out.)

    (It's also supposed to be bastardized Celestial and not really Latin at all, so that it happens to be correct Latin could easily be treated as just a happy coincidence. But that's not really as important.)

    So: Am I missing some super-advanced nuance of the Latin language? Does "bad Latin" refer to some bad Latin found within the book, rather than the title? Or is the "Book of Bad Latin" meme simply the product of people who know Latin not reading the first page of the book and the people who don't know Latin just going along with the people who do?
    Shouldn't it be (Ex) Libris Mortuorum then?

    Also, while the preposition can often be dropped in Latin, omitting it in the title of a book is highly unusual.

    The De re metallica is one counterexample.
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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by NNescio View Post
    Shouldn't it be (Ex) Libris Mortuorum then?
    The thing is that the translation given, "From the Books of Dead", isn't quite proper English - you can't really use an adjective like that. If the intent is to translate improper English into equally improper Latin, yes, "mortuorum" (or "mortuī" - "Dead" doesn't specify a number in English) would be correct. Which is to say, "Mortis" may be a marginally less accurate translation of the title given, but it's better Latin. Though, that said, "Mortuorum" wouldn't be quite so bad Latin as "of Dead" is bad English, because Latin allows for more leeway in terms of using adjectives as if they were nouns.

    Quote Originally Posted by NNescio View Post
    Also, while the preposition can often be dropped in Latin, omitting it in the title of a book is highly unusual.

    The De re metallica is one counterexample.
    "De" is just an astoundingly common title for Latin works. They called everything "On Something" if they could. Are there many examples of different prepositions being not omitted in titles? I couldn't find any, but I also couldn't find any examples of prepositions being omitted from a title, so you're probably right.

    Also: on further research, I'm coming upon claims that the ablative of source doesn't actually call for any preposition at all. I don't know that I actually trust that, because most of the examples I'm seeing for ablative of source have to do with birthplace or heritage, so I don't know if ablative of source is actually legitimate when speaking of literary source material. The popular style of bookplate which reads "Ex Libris <Name>" kind of backs up the suspicion that in this context there is a preposition that's getting omitted, though "this book comes from that library" isn't quite the same context as "the material in this book comes from those other books", so I don't really know.

    Either way: dropping a preposition in a title, even if it is unusual, hardly qualifies as bad Latin.
    Last edited by Malimar; 2011-06-22 at 06:01 PM. Reason: Fixed dumb errors

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Malimar View Post
    The thing is that the translation given, "From the Book of Dead", isn't quite proper English - you can't really use an adjective like that. If the intent is to translate improper English into equally improper Latin, yes, "mortuorum" (or "mortuus" - "Dead" doesn't specify a number in English) would be correct. Which is to say, "Mortis" may be a marginally less accurate translation of the title given, but it's better Latin. Though, that said, "Mortuorum" wouldn't be quite so bad Latin as "of Dead" is bad English, because Latin allows for more leeway in terms of using adjectives as if they were nouns.
    Yes, but didn't the OP cite a sidebar inside Libris Mortis that stated that the intent was that the title be "From the Books of Dead?"

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Malimar View Post
    It's also supposed to be bastardized Celestial and not really Latin at all
    Conclusion: Celestial is bastardized Latin.

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Tokiko Mima View Post
    Yes, but didn't the OP cite a sidebar inside Libris Mortis that stated that the intent was that the title be "From the Books of Dead?"
    Whoops, that was a typo in my second post. Fixing it now...

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fax Celestis View Post
    Conclusion: Celestial is bastardized Latin.
    But "Book of Hackneyed Celestial" just doesn't have the same ring to it...

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Fax Celestis View Post
    Conclusion: Celestial is bastardized Latin.
    Quote Originally Posted by Tokiko Mima View Post
    But "Book of Hackneyed Celestial" just doesn't have the same ring to it...
    Yeah, that's actually one of the things I'm deliberately taking from all this: if I ever want to use Celestial in-game, I'll just use Latin. I've already been using a mixture of Hebrew, Arabic, and Aramaic for Abyssal and Infernal names, of course Celestial can be Latin.

    ...

    Holy Pelor, something accidentally genius just occurred to me: In my campaign, there's a FantasyCounterpartCulture of ancient Rome (which I called "Romus", mostly because Ogre Battle 64 already did "Latium").

    Inspired by Fall From Heaven 2, which has at least three civilizations led by angels (Sabathiel, Cassiel, and Basium, though I wouldn't be surprised if there were others), I recently decided that one of the nations in my campaign setting should be ruled by a descended celestial. And, because it was the nation I had fleshed out least completely, I picked Romus.

    Obvious conclusion: everybody from Romus has a Latin name because Celestial is the national language of Romus!

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Malimar View Post
    The thing is that the translation given, "From the Books of Dead", isn't quite proper English - you can't really use an adjective like that. If the intent is to translate improper English into equally improper Latin, yes, "mortuorum" (or "mortuus" - "Dead" doesn't specify a number in English) would be correct. Which is to say, "Mortis" may be a marginally less accurate translation of the title given, but it's better Latin. Though, that said, "Mortuorum" wouldn't be quite so bad Latin as "of Dead" is bad English, because Latin allows for more leeway in terms of using adjectives as if they were nouns.
    Libris is already an ablative plural.

    Ex Libris Mortis
    ("From the Books of Death")

    Ex Libris Mortuorum
    ("From the Books of the Dead." Where "Dead" is understood to be plural, which is obvious in context])

    Ex Libris Mortuus
    (From the Books the Dead. Bad grammar, Mortuus is the nominative case, not the genitive.)

    Ex Libris Mortuī
    (From the Book of the Dead. Where "Dead" is singular, which doesn't really make sense. "The Dead" is often used to reflect a plural group. It's technically a singular noun in English, but that's not how things should be translated, since it obviously refers to a collective group. i.e. "People who have died.")

    Heck, actual burial records in the real world are sometimes called "Liber Mortuorum", particularly in areas of Catholic influence.
    Last edited by NNescio; 2011-06-22 at 05:47 PM.
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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by NNescio View Post
    Ex Libris Mortuus
    (From the Books the Dead. Bad grammar, Mortuus is the nominative case, not the genitive.)

    Ex Libris Mortuī
    (From the Book of the Dead. Where "Dead" is singular, which doesn't really make sense. "The Dead" is often used to reflect a plural group. It's technically a singular noun in English, but that's not how things should be translated, since it obviously refers to a collective group. i.e. "People who have died."
    Ach, confusing "Mortuus" and "Mortuī" was another dumb error (fixing...). "Mortuī" was the one I meant. But notice that the English is not "of the Dead", it's "of Dead". I was offering an ungrammatical translation of the ungrammatical English, as an example of something that really would have been bad Latin.

    My point that "Mortis" and "Mortuorum" would both be good Latin, while being imperfect translations of "of Dead" (which is not an English construction I've heard often, if at all; "of the Dead", sure; "of Dead", no). In which case the worst you can say of the title is "Book of Good Yet Imperfectly Translated Latin", which doesn't roll off the tongue quite so well.

    EDIT: Rereading my post, that wasn't quite exactly my point before, but I guess it's my point now.
    Last edited by Malimar; 2011-06-22 at 06:04 PM.

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Malimar View Post
    Ach, confusing "Mortuus" and "Mortuī" was another dumb error (fixing...). "Mortuī" was the one I meant. But notice that the English is not "of the Dead", it's "of Dead". I was offering an ungrammatical translation of the ungrammatical English, as an example of something that really would have been bad Latin.

    My point that "Mortis" and "Mortuorum" would both be good Latin, while being imperfect translations of "of Dead" (which is not an English construction I've heard often, if at all; "of the Dead", sure; "of Dead", no). In which case the worst you can say of the title is "Book of Good Yet Imperfectly Translated Latin", which doesn't roll off the tongue quite so well.

    EDIT: Rereading my post, that wasn't quite exactly my point before, but I guess it's my point now.
    Hmm, didn't notice that. Interesting. So...

    "Book of 'We Can't Even Get the English Right'"?
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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    It's noted in the side-bar that it might not be an accurate translation.

    Just say "From the Books of Death" and it's a literal translation (unless I misunderstood something; I don't know a fig's worth of Latin).

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Oh wait, I got it.

    "Book of Idiosyncratic Latin"

    As for the bookplates, the "Ex Libris <Name>" literally means "from the books of <Some Organization>", to indicate ownership. "The books" indicates a collection in this context.
    Last edited by NNescio; 2011-06-22 at 06:32 PM.
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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordokai View Post
    What would people say about this game then, when the main hero/villain(depending on your pow) is named Rigor Mortis?

    Mind you, it's one hell of a fun game though
    When I first read that I thought the main hero/villain was Roger Mortis.

    Which throws up some interesting possibilities.

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Considering that "libris" could be the dative or ablative (plural), dropping the preposition here is extremely ambiguous. I'd guess that even the Romans would have looked at that title and given a "whuh?" Or, I guess, "quid?"

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    I agree. Most of the time, it's fine to drop the preposition, particularly when you can infer the meaning. When it could mean "From the books of death" and "To the books of death" and pretty much any preposition + "the books of death", you need a preposition.

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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Veyr View Post
    Considering that "libris" could be the dative or ablative (plural),
    Sorry, that's not correct. It could only be the dative/ablative plural in a second-declension noun. "Mortis" is a form of a third-declension noun. Let me demonstrate:

    EDIT: whoops, I'm an idiot. You're entirely correct, of course; I thought for some reason you were talking about "mortis". Anyway, these tables are still right.


    {table="head;width=700"]{colsp=6}Second Declension noun: legatus (lieutenant)
    {colsp=3}{table="head;width=350"]{colsp=3}Singular
    Case|Ending|Form[/table]|{colsp=3}{table="head;width=350"]{colsp=3}Plural
    Case|Ending|Form[/table]|
    Nominative|-us|legatus|Nominative|-i|legati|
    Vocative|-e|legate|Vocative|-i|legati|
    Genitive|-i|legati|Genitive|-orum|legatorum|
    Dative|-o|legato|Dative|-is|legatis|
    Accusative|-um|legatum|Accusative|-os|legatos|
    Ablative|-o|legato|Ablative|-is|legatis[/table]

    {table="head;width=700"]{colsp=6}Third Declension noun: mors (death)
    {colsp=3}{table="head;width=350"]{colsp=3}Singular
    Case|Ending|Form[/table]|{colsp=3}{table="head;width=350"]{colsp=3}Plural
    Case|Ending|Form[/table]|
    Nominative|-|mors|Nominative|-es|mortes|
    Vocative|-|mors|Vocative|-es|mortes|
    Genitive|-is|mortis|Genitive|-um|mortum|
    Dative|-i|morti|Dative|-ibus|mortibus|
    Accusative|-em|mortem|Accusative|-es|mortes|
    Ablative|-e|morte|Ablative|-ibus|mortibus[/table]


    As you can see, the only form of "mors" that is spelled "mortis" is the genitive singular, meaning "of death". So it is a logical conclusion that the title, given in full, should be "Ex Libris Mortis", that is "From the Books of Death", and the "Ex" was dropped to make it sound more snappy.
    Last edited by Flame of Anor; 2011-06-22 at 11:41 PM.
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    Default Re: Why "Book Of Bad Latin"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mordokai View Post
    Probably one of those things that's catchy to say and somebody came up with and next thing you know, everybody's using it without even thinking what it really means.
    After reading the thread (I know nothing about Latin), I agree with Mordokai.
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