Sunday, November 19, 2006

Latin in the High-Tech World of Cable TV

Over the last year or so I have dropped various hints about the cable TV place where I used to work. There were good friends, dedicated workers who worked 24/7. We were very serious but also had a good time; we did something-or-other which used Subsidiarity, and (as I posted yesterday) our system was founded upon thirteenth-century metaphysics. (See GKC's Heretics for more details.)

Another thing which visitors found very hard to believe was that we used Latin. No, not in conversation (wow, that would be cool!) but in one small, yet very important technical function. And I've been rather hesitant to post very much about it, because I wanted to save it for the book on Subsidiarity.

But then over on Love2Learn I saw this review of a book of Latin proverbs, and had to wonder: did they include our favourite proverbs which appeared for years on the big screens in our Control Room? Of course I don't know; I will have to get a copy of the book. But meanwhile I am sure you will be horribly curious to know just what Latin proverbs were so important they were used in such a high-tech setting!

Good. So maybe I will tell you one or two, and you can have the same enjoyment we had. Sorry I cannot duplicate the rest of the environment - you can get a little taste of it if you get your room temperature down to about 60 or so, turn on a few dozen fans (or a recording of a waterfall) to duplicate the hiss of the computer fans, and then blast some rock-and-roll. Oh, I almost forgot. Lug all the TVs in the house (borrow some from your neighbors) into your chilled, noisy room, and turn them ALL on, each to a different network, but no sound - if you want the full experience you need at least 48. Then pour yourself a cup of lukewarm coffee, sit back, put your feet up, and relax... There you are. (You're on break, and I came in to see how things are going.) Now, imagine the following quotes in bright green foot-tall letters projected on a big screen above your head:

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

This is the foundation quote. It was the philosophical source of a significant aspect of our designs, and the primary reason that we had Latin quotes at all. But I am not going to explain all that here - you will have to wait for the book to come out. For the present, I will tell you that this quote is taken from Satire VI by Juvenal, the great Roman satirist. In English, it may be translated "Who will watch the Watchers themselves?" Obviously this is a powerful thought, for all it being nearly 2000 years old, whether it be applied to governments, corporations, families, Control Rooms, and so on. (If you are wondering why I capitalized "Watchers" you will have to wait for the book; J. K. Rowling can't be the only one with literary secrets, hee hee.)

Nemo gratis mendax.

In English, this might be rendered "Nobody lies for free." (I found it in Shallo's Scholastic Philosophy which does not mention the source.) This seemed very fitting for any business which deals with advertising, since when you come down to it, our work was very simple: you give us the spot, tell us when you want it played - then, once we play the spot, you gotta pay.

Abusus non tollit usum.

In English, "Abuse (of a thing) does not take away (its) use." (I've somehow managed to mislay my reference for the source of this quote.) It is a very powerful insight and tells us that even television, indeed, even television commercials, have their good uses, which no abuse can remove. If this seems surprisingly strange to you, I will show you why advertising is good (as Aquinas might) by quoting Scripture:
And Philip running thither, heard the eunuch reading the prophet Isaias. And Philip said: Thinkest thou that thou understandest what thou readest? The eunuch said: And how can I, unless some man show me?
[Acts 8:30-31, emphasis added]
I know, I wouldn't have believed it either. But somebody has to show you.

Nemo dat quod non habet.

That is, "Nobody gives what he does not have." This is also from Shallo; at one point he quotes this line to explain that "For the agent not having in itself the sufficiency of its own existence, cannot be the sufficient reason for the existence of anything else." This is perhaps the quote which comes closest to hinting about how Subsidiarity played a part in our work, and it also happens to appear in the Bible: "For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you..." [1 Cor 11:23] This Latin proverb may seem a rather elementary piece of common sense, but then that is really just another term for "13th century metaphysics".

So there you have a sample; I hope you enjoyed it. No I didn't tell you WHY the Latin was there - you might try to guess. If not, you will have to wait for the book.

OK, I could use some more coffee - you want some? Just put on a jacket if you're cold; that's one reason why I wear the lab coat! Your shift will be over soon enough. Hey turn up the tunes, this is a great song...


At 19 November, 2006 22:01, Blogger Love2Learn Mom said...

Interesting! I especially liked this one... Abusus non tollit usum.

It reminds me of a topic that came up in the book on Mary we just studied with the teens. Some Protestants were objecting that veneration for Mary was objectionable because it might very easily get carried away and taken into an extreme and the difference between our devotion for God and our devotion to Mary become too fuzzy.

At 20 November, 2006 10:58, Blogger Candlestring said...

Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

Remember we talked about Dr. Seuss' page about the "bee watcher watcher" from his book _Did I Ever Tell You How Lucky You Are?_

Love the other phrases. Wish I knew my Latin! I only know a few vocabulary words... we'll get there some day...

At 24 November, 2006 10:21, Blogger rhapsody said...


with lots of milk, no sugar please! :)

Can't say it in Latin, though...


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