April 05, 2007

Virgo serena, pia, munda et immaculata

In English: Fair virgin, pious, pure, and unstained.

Following up on the word games in yesterday's post, I thought I would share this amazing little anagram in Latin. Anagrams are an absolutely delightful form of word play, and were given a big boost in popularity by recent blockbuster books, in both Harry Potter (Tom Marvolo Riddle = I am Lord Voldemort) and in the Da Vinci Code (O draconian devil = Leonardo da Vinci).

So, now that I have told you that today's saying, Virgo serena, pia, munda et immaculata, is an anagram, can you see what famous Latin phrase it is an anagram of...? You might get out some Scrabble tiles and see what you can come up with before you read onwards.

And here is the answer: Ave Maria, gratia plena, dominus tecum, "Hail Mary, full of grace, the lord is with you." In other words, it is the "Hail Mary," or angelic salutation spoken by the angel Gabriel to Mary in the Gospel of Luke 1:28. If you take the letters of the "Hail Mary" and rearrange them, you will come up with the lovely Latin saying here, itself a description of Mary.

There is something almost magical about anagrams, as if there is a secret message concealed in plain sight.

Thanks to computers, it's much easier to create anagrams than ever before. You can use the amazing Anagram Server at Wordsmith to create anagrams in a variety of languages, including Latin.

For example, if I put my name, "Laura Gibbs," into the Latin anagram generator I get this response: BALBUS AGRI, "the stammering man of the field." If I put in "America" I get AMICA RE, "with a friendly thing." And how about this: if I put in "Publius Vergilius Maro" and I get GLORIA UBI SPREVI LUSUM, "Glory, where I scorned play."

Be warned: don't start playing with the Anagram Server unless you have some serious time to waste! It is captivatingly fun.

Meanwhile, here is today's proverb read out loud:

205. Virgo serena, pia, munda et immaculata.

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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