Indispensable to the Educated Reader
Paul V. Hartman
amicus curiae ah-MEEK-us KOO-ree-ay
"friend of the court" A legal brief prepared in anticipation of a court decision
by a person not directly involved on either side of the case but who has an interest
in the outcome.
carpe diem CAR-pay DEE-um
"seize the day" (From the Odes of Horace)
cogito ergo sum CO-gih-tow AIR-go soom
"I think, therefore I am." A brilliant insight by Descartes. But did he say it
in Latin, as above, or in French? - "Je pense, dont je suis."
comme il faut kom-eel-FOH
"as it should be"; proper and fitting.
"Talking while eating is not comme il faut."
de rigueur da-ree-GUR
absolutely required by etiquette; mandatory
deus ex machina DAY-oose ex mah-KEEN-ah
"God from machine" A literary device: when a plot becomes too complicated, the
author introduces some element that no one would have anticipated. In Greek and
Asian drama, a God literally descends (in a basket, from the ceiling) to straighten
out a convoluted plot.
dramatis personae DRAM-a-tis per-SONE-eye
the cast of characters
"they leave the stage". One person leaving is "exit".
hoi polloi HOY pa-LOY
Greek for "the common people". The usual mistake is to say or write "the hoi
polloi" but the article, "the", is already included.
in flagrante delicto in fla-GRONT-tay da-LEK-toe
caught in the act; caught red handed (literally: "while the thing was blazing")
inter pares inter PAR-rays
between equals; also: primus inter pares = "first among equals"
mirabile dictu meer-RAB-a-lah DICK-two
astonishing or marvelous to say. "Although soundly beaten in all nine rounds to
date, he announced - mirabile dictu - that he would win the fight in the last round."
ne plus ultra neh ploos UUL-trah
perfect; the very best Literally: "not more beyond"
noblesse oblige naw-BLAYS aw-BLEEGE
"nobility obliges" or "rank imposes certain obligations", such obligations as to
conduct oneself honorably and courteously with those of the lower levels. A simple
example is to forego your choice of running your polo pony in order to appear at some
location to cut a ribbon.
non sequitur non SEC-wa-tur
"it does not follow" The conclusion is not logical based on what has appeared
quid pro quo KWID pro KWO
"something for something". A person may expect an object or a courtesy in
exchange for something given; that which the person expects to get is called the quid
raison d'etre ray-SAWN DET-tra
"reason for being". In modern use, it is to describe the main purpose for
someone's life: to be a politician, a golfer, etc.
"Ballet was her raison d'etre."
sine qua non SIN-nay qua non
"without which, not" Something indespensible or absolutely necessary.
"Boating shoes are sine qua non on a sailboat."
sui generis soo-EE GEN-er-ous
one of a kind; in a class by itself; unique
A NOTE ON PRONUNCIATION:
Latin pronunciations often differ from those adopted into English. For instance, the Latin "V" is pronounced as if it were a "W". The Latin "C" is pronounced hard as if it were a "K" while in English it is often soft as if it were an "S". If the English version is now common by frequent use, I have used the English, though my doing so will be scorned by the Latin scholars among us.
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