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Illegitimatum Uncarborundum

Posted by Charlie on June 20, 2001

In Reply to: Illegitimatum Uncarborundum posted by Bob on February 10, 2000

I suggest you guys borrow the book "The Handmaid's Tale" and find the part about the phrase "Don't Let the bastards grind you down."
I believe it goes something like "nolite ... carborundum..." I'm not sure, but check it out.

: : : : : : : : Is there a Latin phrase something like this?
: : : : : : : : Is this a corruption or just plain "Made-up"?

: : : : : : : : Thanks Dennis

: : : : : : : I guess the phrase you seek is 'illegitimi non carborundum' which roughly translates to that well known saying 'don't let the bastards grind you down'. Then again my Latin is so rusty as to border on the non-existent so I may well have got the phrase wrong.

: : : : : : The Latin scholars here at the Institute are working on this question and will get back to you.

: : : : : It's fake Latin, joke Latin. Carborundum, a substance used in grinding wheels, with a hardness close to diamonds, sounds enough like a Latin word to provide the minor amusement. De gustibus...

: : : : Think again Bob: as history stretches back further than last month so also does the language.

: : : Well, Antony (Marc Antony?) I have indeed thought again. Since carborundum is a man-made substance, invented in 1891, I made the assumption that the ancient Romans were unfamiliar with it. Quod erat demonstrandum.

: : They may well have invented it in 1891 but what was the origin of the name? I'm sure we could give you a list as long as your arm, if not your memory, of new inventions whose names have their origins in Greek and Latin.

: Ok, I'll make one more attempt to explain the joke... even though humor, like a frog, doesn't do well after being dissected. "Don't let the bastards grind you down" is the punch line to a joke (immortalized on coffee mugs and signs on cubicles everywhere) that is set up with the mock-Latin phrase "Illegitimi non carborundum." Now, let's dissect the frog: Illegitimi is not the Latin word for bastard (that's nothus, -um, plural -i) and in fact it doesn't seem to be a Latin word at all. I'll leave that up to authentic Latin scholars, but it doesn't appear in my Latin dictionary...) Carborundum is not a Latin word either ... the substance didn't even exist until the late 19th century. As for "grinding" ... well, there's no verb, or even mock-verb, in the phrase ... which doesn't matter, because it's a joke, people. Oops. The frog died.