Wednesday, March 14, 2007

detur gloria soli deo

One of the many excellent things about being a Latin teacher is the time I get to devote myself to questions of absolutely no importance or relevance to the wider world. These include such things as 'Why is this noun ablative?', 'Why is this verb subjunctive?' and 'What on earth is Lucretius talking about?'.

The other day I was pondering my old school motto: Detur Gloria Soli Deo- 'Let Glory be given to God alone.' It's an interesting motto from a grammatical point of view- Detur is a iussive subjunctive ('let...'), and it's passive as well ('...be given'), and soli...

Hang on a second, surely solus, -a, -um is a 1st/2nd declension adjective? Surely if it were to agree with deo, the ending should be solo? Could it be there was a grammar mistake in my old school motto? Or did it perhaps mean something else? Perhaps soli was not from solus, -a, -um (alone) after all, but perhaps from sol, -is (the sun) and in apposition to deo- in which case the motto would mean something like 'let glory be given to the sun as god'. Or perhaps it was from solum, -i (the ground, earth, soil), and was not dative, but genitive, meaning 'let glory be given to the god of the soil.'

As all this and more raced through my mind, I reached for my trusty Lewis and Short, and read the following:

solus, -a, -um, gen. solius; dat. soli

So soli is an irregular form, but does in fact mean what I thought it did. I could sleep easy once more, with the words of Socrates ringing in my ears: 'The unexamined motto is not worth having.'

4 comments:

Mike Salter said...

Ah, mottoes...endless fun.

I recently gave my Year 8s a find-a-word for which the "left-over" expression (once all the other letters had been filled in) was the Everton FC motto: "nil satis nisi optimum". With a bit of prompting from me, the brighter ones worked out what that meant.

There are some good Latin mottoes for the older football clubs: "Superbia in Proelio" (Manchester City), "Audere est Facere" (Tottenham), and a few others.

As always, any means of slipping some soccer into my Latin classes will be milked for all it's worth...

jeltzz said...

not that I ever remember it, but Wheelock, p57 (ch 9) has the acronym UNUS NAUTA to remind us of 9 adjectives with a singular genitive in -ius, and sg. dat in -i, all of them having to do with number of some kind.

- Seumas

jm said...

that would have saved me so much pain! Now if only i had a copy of wheelock...

Sarah S said...

Gosh, I thought I was a Latin nerd. Speaking of being a Latin nerd, LOL @ the Socrates joke.

[I hope my html attempt works - the last time I used html was like two years ago. Talk about 1337.]