A d F o n t e s

(Latin: "to the sources")

More on Latin Tattoos

 Keeping with my recent discussion of tattoos, last week we took our colloquium presenter–a very smart and cool guy–out to dinner, and the subject turned to tattoos.  It turns out he got a gigantic chameleon needled on his back, which is not something one would expect from a classicist, which made it all the more cool.  A friend of mine present also happens to have Catullus’ words “odi et amo,” “I hated and I love,” on his shoulder. 

This got me thinking about what would I get if I were to have a tattoo?  One idea came to mind from a recent poem we read in class–it comes from Juvenile’s first satire:  “difficile est saturam non scribere.”  It means “…it is difficult not to write a satire.”  It’s one of those lines that needs its context to explain it.  In Juvenile, it’s one of several lines that just jumps off the page.  In this satire Juvenile is programmatically explaining why it is he feels so compelled to write–and write satire in particular, as opposed to any other poetry.  His answer is basically:  there’s lots of crap going on in the world–and particularly in his midst.  Everything from eunuchs scandalously getting married to young prodigals wasting their fortunes and then hoping for command of an army to men who sleep their way to the top of the social pecking order. 

Juvenile’s response:  difficile est saturam non scribere. 

Oddly enough, this idea hit me while clothes shopping in a overpriced store with lots of gaudy crap on 34th street.  I’m sure that had something to do with


October 20, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Another Odd Tattoo

It is a little too strange to be seeing yet another bad tattoo, but since it was the topic of my last post it keeps with the theme.  And strange enough it was at the campus library photocopiers, where I was copying a text of that oh so perverse satirist Perseus. 

This time it was again in Latin, and again in the small of a young woman’s back, and read “Me Destruit,” meaning “he/she/it destroys me.”  That and the location means the line of questioning that follows from “veni vidi vici” certainly applies here.  It’s bizarre the kinds of things some folks put on their bodies. 

So I got the idea to google this one, and straightaway the most common hit was this quote “quod me nutrit me destruit,” “what nourishes me destroys me.”  I couldn’t find an author so I don’t know if it’s ancient or modern, though it sounds a little like Nietzche’s “what doesn’t kill use makes us stronger,” which clearly isn’t what the Latin means though perhaps there’s an echo. I did learn, however, that Angelina Jolie had it tattooed below her navel (why? And what does the cross have to do with anything?).  It sounds to me like the kind of line one would think is “cool” only if one didn’t think about it.  It’s actually pretty silly. 

In any event, I’m inclined to think the young woman had “quod me nutrit” tattooed elsewhere–perhaps the navel like Jolie.  Though this is Columbia University, so perhaps she was doing a revisionist reading of the line–perhaps meaning something like “it just destroys me.” 

This leads me to one piece of advice: 

(1) If you’re going to put a permanent mark on your body, make sure you know what the heck you’re doing. 

(2) And if it’s in a foreign language you don’t read, find someone who does (I feel bad for the poor souls who had those embarrassing Hebrew ones done). 

October 8, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Worst Tattoo Ever

I’ve seen some pretty dumb tattoos in my time–like this one, this one, or this one (“stomach of blood”? what?!)–but I saw among the most ridiculous ones today in the grocery store of all places:  A young woman had, tattooed on the small of her back, the words “veni vidi vici.”  It means “I came, I saw, I conquered” in Latin, and if one knew nothing more that that one might think it was kinda cool…though upon further reflection it’s pretty darn strange.  Its location on the lower back begs me to ask what was seen and conquered, or by whom.  Perhaps I don’t want to know.  And what makes it a even wierder is that those words belong to none other than the dictator Gaius Julius Caesar himself, and they describe his defeat of Pontus (note comment); Ok…well what the heck does that mean? 

October 7, 2007 Posted by | Uncategorized | 7 Comments