Animal Disputax

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by HermanTheGerman, Dec 13, 2012.

  1. HermanTheGerman Senior Member

    From what I understand, this refers to a very argumentative person and usually has a negative connotation.
    Is there any well-known, commonly accepted English equivalent for this expression?
  2. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member


    Have you a context for the phrase? And are you looking for a colloquial English equivalent? We can say of someone "she is an argumentative so-and-so", for example. Or are you looking for something more colourful and rude? Incidentally, I would be interested to know whether there is an equivalent, umgangsprachliche, version in idiomatic German.
  3. HermanTheGerman Senior Member

    The phrase is used in a turn of the century English non-fiction book to describe a certain very argumentative scholar.
    Obviously, at that time knowledge of Latin was expected and no translation was provided.
    I was wondering if there's an equally concise English equivalent in the same register that the author could have used instead.
  4. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    This is not exactly what we call context. Books normally do have titles.

    The phrase is straight-forward Latin, but I do not think it is widely used in English, or other modern languages.
  5. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Greetings once again

    As the OP surmises, homo disputax would be understood by many or most readers, in an ironic contortion of homo sapiens. In view of the irony, and of the deliberate use of Linnaean formulation, it is probably best left as that - just as one might say (of someone particularly stupid or ignorant) homo nesciens, or of a persistent liar homo mendax. The point of the phrase was precisely to lend a wittily specious scientific feel to the description.

    In a scholarly context, one could certainly imagine someone such as A.E.Housman using this of a fellow-scholar - for instance, the praefatio to his critical edition of Lucan, BC, contains many unflattering references to other textual critics in not dissimilar terms.

    "The disputatious fellow..." might convey, in modern English, something of the same tone of disdain. There may be something further to be found in Gibbon's magnificent Vindication, but at the moment I have not time to do it or the question justice.
  6. HermanTheGerman Senior Member

    Thanks! "Disputatious fellow" fits the bill nicely. (I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never heard or seen "disputatious" before.)
  7. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member


    Curiously, a discussion in a different WR Forum has just reminded me of H.G.Wells'...

    ....Filby, an argumentative person...

    Scholiastic salutations
  8. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    And another footnote (re ##5, 6):

    I have just encountered the following in a book on late antiquity:

    " truth the Qu' a most disputatious book"
    (Tom Holland, In the Shadow of the Sword, p. 308)
  9. wandle

    wandle Senior Member

    English - British
    Two observations:
    (a) disputax may be a coinage, since it is not in Lewis and Short;
    (b) animal disputax appears to be a pun on animal politicum or ζῷον πολιτικόν, which is Aristotle's definition of man in his Politics: a political animal.
    He says that the state, the political entity, is inherent in the human being in the same way as the plant is inherent in the seed.
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2013
  10. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    (wandle, #9).

    Quite. Also not in Niermeyer's Dictionary of Mediaeval Latin. But it is at least a legitimate coinage in terms of its formation. It's a pity HermantheGerman has been unable to supply us with details of the source. I would hazard a guess that it is a somewhat ironic aside by one academic about another.
  11. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    Nor is it in the Thes. ling. lat., nor in any of the dictionaries of Middle and Late Latin.
  12. Ben Jamin Senior Member

    But the adjective "disputax" existed in Classical Latin?
  13. fdb Senior Member

    Cambridge, UK
    French (France)
    No .

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