''Latin, being the concise language it was (or is), causes much confusion in translation,'' writes obstetrician and gynaecologist Phil Watters, of Fern Tree. ''My favourite story is the opening of a large new maternity unit which had the words 'Primum non nocere' placed over the entrance. This is the exhortation in medicine to 'First do no harm'. Some wags then pointed out it could also mean 'The first time doesn't hurt', or 'Once is OK' etc (you get my drift), so they changed it to 'Labor vincit omnia'.'' It took us a while to work it out, but it translates as ''Labour conquers all''.Which occasioned this response today:
Beryl Lubov, of Sussex Inlet, insists that the correct version of Saturday's Latin maternity ward sign ''is 'Labor Omnia Vincit' (the verb always comes last in Latin), also the motto of Sydney Girls High School, the alma mater of the NSW Governor, Marie Bashir'', and indeed Beryl herself. ''In the 1940s it was translated as 'Work Conquers All', and to students from other high schools Sydney Girls was known as the 'sweat school'.''...the verb always comes last in latin? A little knowledge can be a dangerous thing.
The motto comes from Virgil's Georgics, where he describes the degeneration of humanity from a mythical Golden Age. He writes:
tum variae venere artes. labor omnia vicitlabor here is seen not as a virtue but as oppression, described as improbus and working alongside egestas. So I'm not sure it's a great motto for a school. Much better would be a similar phrase from the Eclogues, where the passionate Gallus says:
improbus et duris urgens in rebus egestas.
At that time various different skills arose. Wicked toil conquered all, and poverty too, pressing upon us in hard times.
omnia vincit Amor: et nos cedamus Amori.
Love conquers all: and let us give in to Love.
which wouldn't make a bad motto for a maternity ward now either now I think about it. And do you notice how neither of the verbs (vincit, cedamus) are at the end of the sentence?