A Latin Corrective

I was very happy to receive the following comment recently from one Br Alexis:

I was passing by when I saw your Latin quote…if you mean to say

“A sinner among sinners, and a madman among the mad…” [yes, that’s right]

I am an expert on Latin, and so, I humbly suggest the correct Latin for that would be

peccator apud pecatores, e insanus apud insanos

since inter, means ‘between’ in the sense of middle between two positions, but apud, means ‘among’ in the sense of human company…/

Glad to take your advice, Brother. I will make the change.

Br Alexis has recently started a webpage here: http://fromrome.wordpress.com/


I have had two replies to this. The first is from John Nolan (who had difficulty opting in the combox):

BTW, I tried to comment on the previous post, but for some reason couldn’t get the page up. ‘Inter’ in Latin can mean both ‘between’ and ‘among’. Examples of the latter would be ‘inter alia’, ‘inter multos’, ‘primus inter pares’, ‘Inter Insigniores’ (Decree of the CDF 1976) and ‘Inter oves locum praesta’ (Dies Irae). ‘Apud’ is also correct, although its primary meaning corresponds to the French ‘chez’ or the German ‘bei’.

The second is from a private emailer:

Re: your motto change. Brother Alexis is right to say that “apud” bears the meaning “amongst” and that “inter” bears the meaning “between” but not so absolutely correct in my view in suggesting the former is more correct than the latter for the purposes what your motto intended to convey.

The fact is that “apud” also bears other meanings, and its primary or more usual meaning is not “amongst” but “at” or “in the presence of”. “Inter” mainly means “between” when two alternatives are posed. It means very comfortably and frequently “amongst” especially when more elements are contemplated, and this is the meaning that was most obvious and understood by me and, I venture to say, others who will have understood very well what you were saying. I will cite you just one example that immediately springs to my mind: The Good Friday hymn “Crux Fidelis Inter Omnes, Arbor una nobilis…..”. A common English rendition of this is “Faithful Cross above all others, one and only noble tree…” In other words, it is properly translated as “Faithful Cross amongst all others”.

In my opinion, “inter” for “amongst” is no less correct than “apud”, (and I am inclined to say it is more correct), and to my sensitive ear is much nicer. It is much smoother and easier-sounding and pronounceable to say “peccatores” after the open ended “in-tah” than to say “p” after “d”; whilst the final “d” of “apud” causes no such problem with the “i” of “insanos”, the final “r” of the “inter” glides the mouth to the open-beginning “in-“ of “insanos” thus: “insanus intah r-insanos”.

Just a view. I love questions of language and can’t resist discussing them.

Given both opinions, I think I will return to my original. Unless there are any other comments to the contrary?

About Schütz

I am Catholic, married to Cathy, father of Maddy & Mia. Since 2002, I have been the Executive Officer of the Ecumenical & Interfaith Commission of the Archdiocese of Melbourne. I was once a Lutheran pastor, but a "year of grace" and soul-searching led me into the Catholic Church. It was a bumpy ride, but with the support of my (still Lutheran) wife, I was finally confirmed on June 16, 2003.
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6 Responses to A Latin Corrective

  1. Schütz says:

    I’ve fixed the comments on this post now. Reposting John’s comment from the post above:
    John Nolan says:
    September 14, 2013 at 12:34 am
    Sorry, still can’t get the combox on the other post. To reinforce the comments, ‘inter’, whether it is used for ‘between’ or ‘among’, always governs a noun in the plural. Not so with ‘apud’ – “Orate, fratres, ut meum ac vestrum sacrificium acceptabile fiat apud Deum patrem omnipotentem”. The normal translation would be ‘with’, although ICEL prefers ‘to’.

    I don’t claim to be an “expert on Latin”, but would suggest that in the case of the original poster “Peritus per galerum loquitur”.

  2. I thought your motto was “maior autem his est spes”?

    In any case, while not a Latin expert by any means, it would never have occurred to me that ‘inter’ is not acceptable.

    • Schütz says:

      Always a good idea to have several mottos! Sentire cum ecclesia is actually my motto (it will be on my coat of arms if I am ever knighted or made a bishop), and Maior autem his est spes is my blog motto. The one under discussion here is really just to let my readers know I don’t think too highly of myself – or them, for that matter.

  3. John Nolan says:

    David, you don’t have to be a knight or a bishop to apply for a grant of arms. Even if you don’t have the rank of esquire, you are still a gentleman of coat armour. However, you would have to apply to the College of Arms in London, since unlike Canada and the Republic of Ireland, Australia for some reason does not have its own heraldic authority. It would be easy enough for the Governor-General to set one up, so one wonders why it has not been done.

  4. Rob Flammang says:

    There is an antiphon for the Assumption that says, “Benedicta tu inter mulieres et benedictus fructus ventris tui Dominus”. It is a variation (based on the Vetus Latina?) of much more famous phrases taken from the Vulgate.

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