It appears that Fox News personality and Trump whisperer Sean Hannity, no doubt in an attempt to appear erudite and impress his audience, bungled the Latin motto he put on the cover of his new book.
At first, the cover featured the Latin tagline “vivamus vel libero perit Americae” – a phrase that Hannity told viewers on Fox means “live free or America dies”. But as Indiana University Bloomington classics student Spencer Alexander McDaniel laid out on his blog in May, the Latin phrase makes little sense.
“It is clear that whoever came up with this motto does not even know the basic noun cases in Latin or how they work,” wrote McDaniel. “The words in Hannity’s motto are real Latin words, but, the way they are strung together, they don’t make even a lick of sense.”
McDaniel, who was not the only classicist to question Hannity’s “perplexing” Latin, translated Hannity’s Latin text as “Let’s live or he … passes away from America for the detriment of a free man”. He then inferred that the incorrect Latin had been arrived at by putting “live free or America dies” into Google Translate.
Here’s the relevant scene from Life of Brian.
The publisher should also make Hannity write out the correct Latin phrase 100 times so that he does not make the same mistake again.
Who Cares says
And even after this everyone keeps denying that Big Tech is biased against Trump and the people supporting him. Why else would Google Translate deliberately return something wrong
This reminds me of the Canadian politician (and prat) Peter McKay announcing that he was running for the leadership of the Conservative Party saying “J’ai sera candidate”.
It is essentially untranslatable but seems to be “I have/ I was —will be (3rd person) --the female candidate”. And this was at a French language debate in an officially bilingual country
The French language doe not not seem to be Peter’s strong point. It is not clear what is.
There are many ways one could translate those words. Thanks to the fact they don’t make grammatical sense, we could have several things happening here.
“vivamus” is the present subjunctive. As a main verb It could be iussive (“let us live”) or deliberative (“we may live”, “should we live”), or just possibly optative, though that would usually have an ut or ne with it.
“vel” is the conjunction “or”. But it doesn’t convey that concessive sense Hannity thinks it should in Latin, merely presents two options that are equally possible.
Then we get to “libero”, which is most obviously the (first person singular present indicative active) verb “I free”, but could just about be the dative or ablative of “liber” which is the adjective “free” (so, reifying the adjective into a noun since it doesn’t seem to have a noun to depend on: “to a free man, for a free man, from a free man, by means of a free man”. Free here in the sense of generally unrestricted -- an ex-slave would be libertus).
“perit” is the verb “perish” (third person singular present indicative active).
“Americae”, if we are using “America” as a first declension noun, could be genitive singular (“of America”), dative singular (“to America”, “for America”) or nominative plural (“the Americas” as the subject of a sentence).
So… grammatical gibberish, basically. “Let us live, or I free, it perishes, of America”. “We might live, or it perishes to America by using a free man”
Should you want an actual Latin version of the phrase, I’d suggest “nisi libere vivimus, periet America” -- literally “unless we live freely, America will perish”.
My last latin class was nearly 30 years ago, but even I could tell this was gibberish.
The use of google translate on Latin is really not advised. It is pretty rubbish. When any of my students presents me with a translation piece they just ran through google translate (admittedly they tend to stop doing that after twelve years old), my punishment for them is simply to give them the mark that such work would earn on its own merit.
Rob Grigjanis says
Semper ubi sub ubi
Steve Morrison says
Spencer Alexander McDaniel recently made a followup post. Apparently Hannity (or, actually, his publisher) corrected the motto in the final, published book.
The whole idea of putting your newly invented motto into Latin to give it (dare I say) gravitas is such a wank.
“The publisher should also make Hannity write out the correct Latin phrase 100 times”
…. or cut his balls off.
Wow, that quotation from McKay was news to me! Probably something to do with the fact that my mental blast doors are set to “slam shut, and don’t take your time about it” whenever the phrase “Conservative Leadership Race” is uttered.
Well, as Doris used to say, J’ai sera, sera, which I believe translates (from the original Franish) as “prats gonna prat.”
Given that there’s no US law relating to personal heraldry, there’s nothing to keep someone from simply assuming arms, which I’ve done.
The motto is Computo Ergo Sum, a play on Descartes’ famous line. I actually prefer Codeo Ergo Sum, after the recent English verb, to code; but it was suggested that it might seem that I’m trying to make a verb out of codex, and someone looking only at the Latin might think that I’m becomming a blockhead. 😎