Thursday, February 18, 2010

sidere mens eadem mutato

My alma mater was in the news yesterday over plans to drop the Latin motto from its publicity materials.

AFTER 150 years the University of Sydney has abandoned its status quo, dropping the Latin motto from its redesigned coat of arms and logo...

The motto - most commonly translated as ''the constellation is changed, the disposition is the same'' - has been part of the university's coat of arms since 1857. As a first-time astronaut, Greg Chamitoff, a former university staff member, even took a patch of the crest into space on the shuttle Discovery in 2008.

Marian Theobald, the university's external relations executive director, said market research, overseen by the Chicago-based firm Lipman Hearne, had found the university relied too heavily on its sandstone heritage and something ''bolder, more energetic and more modern'' was needed...

''The motto will still be used by the university and will be maintained for more formal purposes, such as on testamurs....''

Emily Matters, president of the Classical Language Teachers Association, said the removal was hugely disappointing.

''I think this goes against everything what universities stand for where one generation hands over its culture to the next,'' she said.

Anthony Alexander, president of the Classical Association of NSW, who also teaches Greek and Latin at the University of Sydney, said the deletion was far from a dumbing down of the university or a denigration of Latin.

''What matters is what we teach, what we actually do in the classrooms,'' he said. ''I don't think it compromises Latin, which is stronger than ever.''

Here's the full article.


For what it's worth, I've always thought it's a great motto - not only a good sentiment,expressed concisely in a way it's near impossible to do in English, but some nice grammar (an ablative absolute for sidere... mutato) and a very elegant chiastic structure.
 
The university's own website, by the way, suggests that a good translation of the motto would be something like "The traditions of the older universities of the Northern Hemisphere are continued here in the Southern."

5 comments:

Mike Salter said...

I never liked the motto anyway, I have to say...the message seems to be "we're all Poms really", which is increasingly irrelevant to Australia anno 2010.

BTW JM - how did your kids go in the OzCLO? Mine didn't get a place, but enjoyed it a lot and managed to get a score in the 80s somewhere. We will pip James Ruse next time! ;-)

jm said...

i didn't know you'd put a team in, i didn't see you on the day. i did see saw karyn moon and andrew miles though, which was nice.

my kids did well, but didn't place. they were all juniors so they might have a better shot next year.

Mike Salter said...

Good stuff, congratulations to them. I actually cheated a bit and sent my guys off on their ownsomes (please don't tell my principal!) because I had a grade sport semi-final on the same day. I liked the Etruscan question particularly!

jm said...

i heard there was an etruscan question, but i haven't seen a copy of the questions - my girls were all told to hand theirs in.

your secret's safe with me - i don't think your principal is a regular reader!

sarah s said...

anthony alexander is a bit weird if he thinks latin is really stronger than ever. does he remember where we got it in the first place?