I wrote last week, apropos of the death of Bob Hope:
In the words of my favorite refrigerator magnet, “Time passes quickly, whether you’re having fun or not.” (I wonder what that sounds like in Latin.)
That parenthesis was wistful. Despite having studied four foreign languages, one of them Latin, I’m still a humiliatingly single-tongued monoglot. Fortunately, two of you came through, lickety-split. One reader, who admits to “an almost total lack of fluency in Latin,” nevertheless resorted to an on-line dictionary and came up with this homemade rendering: Tempis fugit aut oblectas aut non.
A few hours later, I heard from a Latin teacher who offered a more plausible-sounding alternate version: Tempus celeriter degit, utrum frueris necne. He obligingly explained:
It may be suggested, and rightly so, that the phrase, “Time passes quickly,” could be translated “Tempus fugit.” Strictly speaking, “tempus fugit” translates to “time flies.” It is a rather well-known sententia Latina antiqua (old Latin maxim). But “tempus celeriter degit” accurately parallels “time quickly passes.” (The word order may seem odd, but that’s how it should be in Latin.)
Won’t you sleep better tonight knowing someone is out there obsessing about this sort of thing?
Absolutely. Now, can anybody out there do cross-stitch?