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helpful friend
Posted: 16 February 2012 01:41 PM   [ Ignore ]
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I have a friend who wants to name her website “helpful friend” in Latin. Her reasons for this are vague, and it seems kind of weird since she doesn’t know Latin, but I’m trying to help anyway. Using the online English to Latin dictionaries, the best I can come up with is “Amicus Proficio” which I suspect isn’t really correct. I know there are Latin scholars here so I hope you don’t mind me asking.

We’re also wondering how to expand on that a bit with “My Helpful Friend” - Mei Amicus Proficio?

I’m not trying to turn this into a Latin help desk, it’s just that she is on a limited budget and can’t afford a professional translation. This is a one-off deal.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 03:02 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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While I know virtually nothing about Latin, I can tell you that “amicus” is commonly used in legal circles (in the US, at least) to refer to a person or organization that is not directly involved in a case but who files a brief with the court setting forth its view of the law.  It is my understanding that it is a clipping of amicus curiae, which means something like “friend of the court” (I.e., look how nice I’m being, judge, I’m not even involved in the case but I’m helping you understand it!). 

On the one hand, this suggests to me that “amicus” means “friend” in the general sense that your friend is looking to convey (a friend who is there to lend assistance, whether to a court or anybody else).  On the other hand, if her website has “amicus” in its title, she might get a lot of misdirected traffic from law students and lawyers who assume it is either some sort of legal aid organization or a website with advice on writing amicus briefs.  On yet another hand, maybe when you’re starting up a website, a little misdirected traffic is a good thing (along the lines of the old cliche that all publicity is good publicity).

In any event, I don’t think amicus, in the above sense, is well known outside of legal circles, so her target audience (whoever that might be) would probably not assume that the website has anything to do with the law (of course, if most of her target audience don’t know much Latin, they probably won’t have any idea of what her website IS about, either).

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Posted: 16 February 2012 05:23 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Proficio is wrong. That’s a verb meaning “to make, accomplish.”

I would try amicus utilis, although a better translation of that might be “useful friend.” You could go with amicus derectivus, which is “directing/helpful/guiding friend.” Which you choose would kind of depend on what specifically you meant by helpful.

The legal use of amicus in English is a clipping of amicus curiae “friend of the court.” Any decent lawyer would now what amicus is short for and what the Latin meaning is, which is just “friend.” I don’t think there would be any confusion by real people, but perhaps there would be by search engines.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 08:27 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Utilis would seem to have a somewhat cynical edge to it. :-)

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Posted: 16 February 2012 08:35 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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I’m not thinking straight. Amicus auxiliarus would be the way to go.

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Posted: 16 February 2012 09:10 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Amicus auxiliarus

Cool. Thank you. If “proficio” had been the right word, would it have been “proficius” with the “us” ending?

I misspoke when I said “website.” The site will be used to feed phone apps and there won’t be any web content, so there are no SEO considerations.

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Posted: 17 February 2012 05:03 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Looking deeper into Lewis and Short, I find that the present participle of proficio can indeed mean “being advantageous, being useful.” So you could go with amicus proficiens, but I don’t think what you meant would be as immediately recognizable as amicus auxiliarus.

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Posted: 17 February 2012 07:43 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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I know this is useless, since your friend is dead set on it, but just to vent: I do not understand people’s obsession with translating things into Latin.  This comes up all the time on AskMetaFilter: “How do I say [SOME STUPID THING] in Latin?  I want it for a [tattoo/website/t-shirt].” And of course they have no idea that it’s hard (and sometimes impossible) to translate things into Latin; they think it’s a matter of looking things up in the dictionary.  And most of the responses they get are from people who do not actually know Latin but want to be utilis, and there is much arguing over nuances and grammar, and I want to bang all their heads together and shout “Nobody knows Latin!  You don’t know Latin, your friend doesn’t know Latin, nobody who sees the goddam tattoo/website/t-shirt will know Latin—what’s the point??” This also applies to Chinese characters, the other object of desire in such cases, with the difference that a billion-plus people will know the tattoo/website/t-shirt is wrong and laugh at it.

People!  You have a language!  It’s a perfectly good language!  USE IT!

*pants, feels better*

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Posted: 17 February 2012 09:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Language hat makes a good point nevertheless at the mention of friend and Latin one instantly thinks of fidus Achates, the ‘faithful friend’ of Aeneas in Virgil’s Aeneid and the very type of a true and faithful friend in Western literature ever since. With which in mind I offer fidus amicus, faithful friend, or even fidus Achates.

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Posted: 17 February 2012 10:41 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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Yes, if I myself wanted such a website name, “fidus Achates” is what I’d go for.  Excellent suggestion!

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Posted: 17 February 2012 11:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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If she can bew persuaded to to go with another dead language, kalyanamitra is “spiritual friend” in sanskrit.

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Posted: 17 February 2012 02:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Good stuff and thanks to all!!

LH, surely you’re a more accomplished student of human nature than to think that people get tattoos for rational reasons. Just as in getting a tattoo, the choice here is being driven by non-rational, emotional considerations. It doesn’t matter in any way if any of this makes sense to anyone but her. To paraphrase Heinlein, applying rational arguments to non-rational situations wastes your time and annoys the pig.

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Posted: 18 February 2012 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I know, I know.  Like I said, I was venting.  And it made me feel better, just as the fellow with the meaningless tattoo feels better.

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Posted: 18 February 2012 04:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Besides, there’s a certain non scio quod when you say something in Latin.

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Posted: 21 February 2012 03:11 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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This is in response to Language hat’s post on “Why do people want to learn latin.” I want to, and it is not for the purpose of translating but because I feel one does not know English well enough if one does not know Latin.
For me, my “base” of English is as deep as the word. If I write poetry, it goes down to syllables (which are not the same as morphemes), but morphemes (is that the word for the building blocks of a word) have no meaning for me because they are largely Latin. I feel my grasp of English and knowlege of linguistics is restricted by my lack of latin.
Would I be able to write better if I had latin? I don’t know. I think that I would see words in a different light.

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Posted: 21 February 2012 04:20 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Learning Latin will not directly help you write English better. Yes, many English words have roots in Latin, but the Latin meanings and grammar don’t necessarily apply in English. They’re two different languages, and what’s true in one has no bearing on what is true in the other. It would have an indirect benefit of making you more aware of grammar, but that could also lead to hypercorrection if you’re not careful, and learning any language will confer this benefit, not just Latin. Learning Spanish would be more practical for most Americans.

It would help you read English somewhat. Puzzling out the meaning of unfamiliar words is easier if you know the Latin roots. But I’m not sure the cost benefit analysis works out in its favor. Buying a good English dictionary is cheaper and easier than learning another language. There are certain forms of literary word play that rely on knowledge of Latin to fully grok, and many older works of literature have Latin epigrams and phrases in them, but how often do we actually read works of this type, and when we do the Latin is usually glossed anyway.

There are basically only two good reasons for learning Latin:

1) You want to read Latin texts in the original. That’s why I’m studying it. You can’t be a good medievalist without a decent working knowledge of Latin.

2) You enjoy it, and it’s just something you want to do. Yes, this reason is a little geeky, but if it’s the case, embrace it. You don’t need to come up with another reason to mask it.

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