How to say ‘ARE YOU FUCKING SERIOUS’ and other charming phrases in Latin
In my Tiberius post I used this phrase in a veeery loose rendition of a passage of Tacitus (Annals 1.74) and a couple of people have enquired about it.
Disclosure: you have no idea how much it means to me that people are still reblogging that post. I read ALL your tags. A couple of people wrote that they thought of The Goblin Emperor by Katherine Addison so I ACTUALLY WENT AND BOUGHT IT. (I really enjoyed it btw so thanks, whoever put that.)
Seriously though, I studied Tiberius during a very difficult period in my life, and the academic process of sifting through all the biased evidence we have about him was really inspiring. I firmly believe that you can have personal investment in an ancient figure or story and still write about it with references. I’m proud that I was able to do that, and I’m pinching myself that people have actually READ it and I actually… made a DIFFERENCE… to what people have always thought???? On this website I see lots of people, aspiring classicists still in high school, with the same love and enthusiasm as me and I have no doubt some of you will be GREAT classicists and I hope I inspire just a few of you to see that you can channel your love into informed statements. I say that because at school we often get the idea you’re supposed to be serious and sober if you know your stuff. Fuck that. You can be serious and passionate.
AHEM sorry about that little spiel. Here is what the Latin passage I referenced actually says. You will see that it doesn’t actually give Tiberius any words in direct speech at all. I extrapolated. But I think it was a legit conjecture XD
sed Marcellum insimulabat sinistros de Tiberio sermones habuisse, inevitabile crimen, cum ex moribus principis foedissima quaeque deligeret accusator obiectaretque reo. nam quia vera erant, etiam dicta credebantur. addidit Hispo statuam Marcelli altius quam Caesarum sitam, et alia in statua amputato capite Augusti effigiem Tiberii inditam. ad quod exarsit adeo, ut rupta taciturnitate proclamaret se quoque in ea causa laturum sententiam palam et iuratum, quo ceteris eadem necessitas fieret. manebant etiam tum vestigia morientis libertatis. igitur Cn. Piso ‘quo’ inquit ‘loco censebis, Caesar? si primus, habebo quod sequar: si post omnis, vereor ne inprudens dissentiam.’ permotus his, quantoque incautius efferverat, paenitentia patiens tulit absolvi reum criminibus maiestatis: de pecuniis repetundis ad reciperatores itum est.
But [Hispo, the informer] accused Marcellus of having had improper conversations about Tiberius, a charge from which there was no escape, when the accuser picked the foulest things he had to say about the princeps’ ways/mannerisms and levelled them at the defendant. For the fact that they were true meant that it was also believed that they were actually said. Hispo added that Marcellus had had a statue of himself placed higher than one of Caesar [Tiberius], and that on another statue he had chopped off the head of Augustus and replaced it with one of Tiberius. At this, [Tiberius] flared up so violently, that he broke his silence and declared that he too would give a verdict on this case, openly and under oath, to oblige all the others to do the same. Even then there remained traces of dying freedom. Therefore Gnaeus Piso said, ‘When will you give your opinion, Caesar? If you go first, I’ll have an example to follow; if you go last, I’m afraid of dissenting unintentionally.’ Troubled by this and by how he had been caught off guard and lost his temper, he was tolerant in his embarrassment, and allowed the defendant to be absolved of the charges of treason: the charge of extortion was referred to the assessors.
But I thought you might all like to know a few ways to express frustration in Latin. The Romans were a dramatic bunch, they spoke with gestures (forensic oratory was physically tiring) and their register changes were subtler; phrases that mean pretty much the same thing in English are actually quite different in tone.
There are probably many more ingenious phrases I’ve forgotten at the moment, but I think I’ve covered the basics. These are all things that Romans actually said. None is actually an obscenity in Latin but accompanied with the gestures I imagine they probably were XDDDD
ain vero? (’seriously?’ but use it for ‘are you serious’ about something you’re excited about, when you want the person to be telling the truth)
verumne dicis? (’are you telling the truth?’ neutrally)
num vera istaec praedicas? (’you can’t be serious?’ with a tone of mild horror)
satin sanu’s?* / satin sana’s?* (’are you in your right mind?’)
quid ais, sacrilege* / sacrilega* (’what are you saying, you fiend?’)
molestus/molesta* or odiosus/odiosa* mihi es (you’re annoying me -> you’re pissing me off)
temulentu’s* / temulenta’s* (’go home you’re drunk’)
* -us ending is masculine, -a ending is feminine. Latin had only these two grammatical genders for people and they corresponded to biological sex (of the person/thing being described, not the speaker) i.e. man or woman. There’s no way round this in classical Latin. If you’d like me to talk about this, shoot me an ask.
ludis iam ludo tuo? (’are you taking the piss?’ this one courtesy of Plautus)
fabularis / garris (’bullshit!’ okay literally the first one means ‘you are reciting fables’ and the second one ‘you’re prattling’)
nil moror (’I don’t much care for [that]’)
hem quae haec est fabula? (’what is this story?!’)
monstra narras (’no way’ accompanied by dramatic gasp, e.g. ‘what a thing to say!’ literally ‘you’re recounting outrageous things’)
di deaeque me perdant! (’for fuck’s sake!’ This is a phrase Tiberius actually used, it literally means ‘may the gods and goddesses strike me down’)
sane quam… / scilicet quod… (’because of course…’ sarcasm markers, start a sentence with one of these and it’s an automatic burn)
tace + opsecro + hercle (’will you shut up!’ you can use tace on its own, add opsecro for drama, add hercle for melodrama depending on how annoyed you are)
occidi / perii / morior (’fuck’. They all literally mean ‘I am dead’ or ‘I’m dying’)
actumst de me (literally ‘it is finished with me’, you can use this for ’I’m 100% done’)
i in malam crucem (’fuck off!’ literally ‘go to an awful cross!’)