April 06, 2007

Sum summus mus

In English: I am the top mouse.

After yesterday's Latin anagrams, I thought it would only make sense to provide a Latin palindrome today. So, if you are wondering what the deeper meaning of "I am the top mouse" would be, stop wondering! It has no deeper meaning at all. Instead, the meaning is all in the word play of the Latin, which reads the same way backwards and forwards: sum summus mus.

The word palindrome is derived from Greek roots, and it means backward-running (the "drome" is the same root found in the word "hippodrome"). The traditional palindrome is one based on letters. There are some famous ones in English; when I was little, the ones I liked best were "Madam, I’m Adam" and "Madam in Eden, I’m Adam." There are all kinds of other delightful English palindromes, such as "Never odd or even" or "No lemons, no melon." You can see a long list of English palindromes here, for your fun and amusement. It offers this spectacular English example: "Are we not drawn onward, we few, drawn onward to new era?"

There are also palindromes in other languages, as you can see at this delightful website in honor of a mind-boggling Polish palindrome. I like the Italian one cited here: "Autore, ero tua," which means "author, I was yours," In Russian (transliterated) there is "Kit na more romantik," meaning "the whale on the sea is a Romantic." There are some wonderful Polish ones - and this one does not require any special diacritical marks: "Muzo, raz daj jad za rozum ," "Muse, just once give poison in exchange for understanding." Plus I really had to laugh at this Swedish one, although I don't know Swedish so I'm relying on the translation provided: "Ni talar bra Latin," "you speak good Latin." Is that what the Swedish really means? How fabulous!

The Latin sum summus mus is really adorable, I think, since it shows the "mouse," mus, lurking in the Latin word "I am," sum. (For a fable about an unexpected mouse, check out the post today at LatinViaFables.com.)

So, with thoughts of mice and being, here is today's proverb read out loud:

162. Sum summus mus.

The number here is the number for this proverb in Latin Via Proverbs: 4000 Proverbs, Mottoes and Sayings for Students of Latin.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Ah, the joys of linguistics.

toguints said...

very nice!