“Brain rot” in the Lower Merion School District?

February 25, 2010

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?


More Latin you should know

September 1, 2007

Bizarro cartoon, by Piraro, 2008 (and a discussion on why the bumper sticker is badly translated)

Bizarro cartoon, by Piraro, 2008 (and a discussion on why the bumper sticker is badly translated)

Oh, I admit it. Sometimes I troll the blogosphere looking for provocation. And sometimes my trolling nets turn up good stuff.

At Joe Carter’s Evangelical Outpost, I found a link to “Latin You Should Know” from Neat-o-rama, When Joe sticks to the factual stuff, sometimes he’s right on.

Here’s the list — but it’s very incomplete, especially for high school students. I’ll append some stuff at the end, Read the rest of this entry »


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