“Brain rot” in the Lower Merion School District?


My Latin is not good.  My high school didn’t offer it, and I couldn’t squeeze it in to college, either.  Tom, one of my study group mates in law school, had four years of Latin with a Catholic priest who was a great and grave taskmaster.  Tom could memorize the hell out of anything (obviously what the priest was trying to instill).

I’ve lost Tom’s address.  I could use his translations now.

Remember the Lower Merion (Pennsylvania) School District?  That’s the one that issued Mac laptops to all the high school kids, and then got embarrassed when it was discovered that the computers came equipped with cameras that take pictures of the kids in their homes, according to the allegations in the complaint that started the federal lawsuit.

Since the lawsuit was filed, the FBI opened an investigation, and the district itself backpedaled fast, claiming that no photos were ever taken except when laptops were reported stolen, and issuing statements that the district and its employees did nothing wrong.  The district also says it has turned off the remote photo devices, and won’t turn them on without notifying parents.

Good.  We’ll watch to see how it comes out.

So, while pondering whether to post a follow up, the logo of the school district caught my eye and my curiosity.

Logo and web letterhead of Lower Merion (PA) School District

What does that Latin stuff translate to?

Okay.  “VE RI TAS” is a very Harvard-like claim of truth.  “Corpori,” obviously means body.  “Menti,” obviously refers to the mind.

“Moribus?”  Something to do with death.

“Body, Mind and Death?”  What sort of a motto is that?  I must have translated something wrong.

Here, I’ll use an on-line translator:  “Fleshly mind to die.”

Fleshly mind to die.  What?  Brain rot?  Does that slogan mean brain rot?

The Welsh Valley Middle School, part of the Lower Merion School District, says the motto means “Body, Mind and Spirit.”  That’s better.

But, “moribus” means “to die, wither away” according to the dictionaries I find.  I get the concept that a spirit remains after death — but is that what they actually say?

Back to the translator, if I ask it to translate “body, mind and spirit” into English, I get “Somes, mens quod phasmatis.” No moribus.

Back to the translator again.  “Spirit” into Latin comes up phasmatis, phasma, spiritus, animus, animositas — nothing about death, no moribus.

Maybe some kid from a Latin class in the Lower Merion schools can tell me how they get “spirit” from “moribus,” or alternatively, just assure me that the motto isn’t supposed to mean “brain rot.”

Did somebody pull a quick one on the LMSD when they adopted their motto?  Could there maybe be a better way to translate it?

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7 Responses to “Brain rot” in the Lower Merion School District?

  1. [...] “Brain rot” in the Lower Merion School District? « Millard Fillmore’s Bathtu… [...]

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  2. Ed Darrell says:

    And they say Latin is a dead language!

    I’ve already doubled my knowledge of Latin with these answers. I hope others will join the discussion.

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  3. j a higginbotham says:

    “Body, Mind, and Spirit” is the way the school interprets it. But as PJr points out, why not “corpus, mens, mos”? Corpus is neuter, third declension; mens feminine, 3rd declension; and mos masculine, third declension. So corpori and menti should be dative singular and moribus dative or ablative plural. And if the veritas goes with that rather than being independent (the connection perhaps aided by the three words and veritas split over three books), a putative (and in inelegant English) meaning is “truth for the body, mind, and customs”. [Note that body, mind, and spirit is a common phrase, associated with the YMCA among other entities].

    ubi sub ubi

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  4. Porlock Junior says:

    I mostly like Latin, maybe partly because my little bit of high school class all those decades ago got only as far as Caesar and never had to attack the amazingly dense stuff written by Cicero and the like. And the first rule is that knowing the translation of a word is barely the beginning; you have to figure out the grammar.

    In this case it appears all the three words are in the dative case, the -i on the first two being, in the particular declension they fall into, I think, only dative and not ablative. So what does it mean? “To the body and mind and [ways, manners, customs, maybe even morals]” is what it looks like. Which I still don’t quite follow.

    Why do we live in such a degenerate time, with no one understanding Latin? O tempora! O mores!

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  5. sbh says:

    I’ll preface this by saying that my Latin sucks–I had two years of it in high school, used it some in college, and since then have mostly avoided it unless I was up against something like an Elizabethan legal document or German church record that absolutely required it. But–

    “Moribus” is the dative plural (and maybe ablative plural?) of “mos”, meaning “manner”, “custom”, or “way”. In the plural it often means “character”, as in Tacitus’ “De vita et moribus Iulii Agricolae” (“On the life and character of Julius Agricola”).

    I’m guessing (FWIW) “character” may be the intended meaning here.

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  6. Ed Darrell says:

    I think there’s a great chance that there is an idiomatic phrase that explains the thing.

    This also may be an exercise in the limitations of internet translation.

    And there’s an outside chance that the phrase should just be translated better.

    Thanks for the other sources, Mr. B.

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  7. Mr. B says:

    I’m not a Latin expert (it’s one of those languages I hope to study in-depth one day), but I think that “spirit” may also be a viable translation. Remember to avoid linguacentrism – our language has words with multiple meanings, so moribus may refer to dying or death in one context but something else in another.

    I found this Perseus result on moribus that might be enlightening. “Spirit” doesn’t come up as an obvious entry, but there are a number of other meanings unrelated to death. More helpfully, this WORDS search has “behavior, morals” in addition to the ones that Perseus gives. Seems legitimate to me, although I think “spirit” is used mostly to maintain a traditional sort of symmetry (mind, body, and spirit are often thought to be the composite parts of a person).

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