July 07, 2005

Latin quiz: everyone gets an A, especially Chris Waigl

There's no way to run a carefully monitored quiz online for the tens of thousands of readers of Language Log, is there? On serendipity, Chris Waigl rapidly posted a beautiful model answer, with careful reasoning about how one answer is probably best but another one could conceivably be argued for, and then she mailed me about it. She was the first person to submit an answer, and would have won the Dan Brown novel if I had decided to go with actual prizes. But all of you other readers could now copy from Chris's site, of course. So rather than report all of you for plagiarism for looking at it, I've decided to give you all an A. That's what grade inflation has come to. Congratulations: you are all way above average.

In fact one of you, namely Alex Smaliy at Johns Hopkins University, even found a source showing that The Economist had not been the first to think about how one might turn the familiar motto around; a scene from Stanislaw Lem's Eden welled up in his memory:

"A colony of some kind…?" the Chemist asked uncertainly. He pressed his hand to his eyes, still seeing black spots.
"E pluribus unum," the Doctor replied. "Or, rather, e uno plures, if my Latin's right. This must be the sort of multiple monster that divides in an emergency...."
"It stinks to high heaven," said the Physicist. "Let's get out of here."

To see whether the Doctor's Latin was exactly right, you go see Chris Waigl.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at July 7, 2005 04:47 PM