Seize Change

Discussion in 'Lingua Latina (Latin)' started by QCain, Jan 21, 2013.

  1. QCain New Member

    I was wondering if anyone knew the best way to translate "Seize change" from Englsih to Latin. I've found different answers, but my foundation of Latin terminology is not extensive and I want to make sure the phrase is correctly translated. Although the phrase is fairly straight forward, I will emphasize that the phrase needs to have the meaning of embrasing, seizing, grabing hold of, and accepting change. I know latin words can represent more than one english word, but make sure that the most direct translation is "seize change". Thank you in advance!
  2. Scholiast

    Scholiast Senior Member

    Tricky one, this.

    "Seize the time/moment" is easy - Horace's carpe diem.

    But in the poster's required sense, "embrace change" [rather than be a die-hard old fogey], one would need something like

    res novas capesse.

    quid putant alii?
  3. jrundin Senior Member

    USA, English
    Like so many snappy slogans, "seize change" is very much dependent on the Language
    in which is said, that is, English. In English, it makes sense to "seize" an abstract
    concept and have that mean "accept it." However, there is no guarantee that other
    languages can do this. You may get lucky; you may not.

    In this case, I think the idea can't be translated literally. It needs to be recast. You have
    to completely change it to catch the thought. I would go with something like
    "oportet libenter mutari" = It's best to change gladly" = "you should be glad to change."
  4. eb110262 Member

    I'm not sure how "carpe diem" can be seen other than seizing an abstract concept -- you can't actually grasp and hold a day!

    I like the idea of res novas - often used for revolutions or upheavals. So "carpe res novas"?

    You could even slim it down to "carpe novum" - "seize the new".
  5. jrundin Senior Member

    USA, English
    Good point, eb110262.

    "Carpe diem," though, is a quote from one of Latin's most famous
    poems, Horace Carm. 1.9.

    Let's start with a given: "carpe" does not mean "sieze." It means "pluck"
    as in "pluck a flower" or "pluck a piece of fruit" to enjoy it.

    Horace was stretching the language metaphorically in this phrase. It occurs in one
    of the most famous poems in the Latin language (and the poem is rightly famous; it's
    beautiful), and Horace leads up to the bold metaphor of "plucking
    the day" like a flower or a piece of fruit through ten or eleven lines.
    It is not clear to me that, without this cultural knowledge and context,
    "carpe diem" would make much sense to a native speaker of Latin.
    It's a bold metaphor.

    As they say, "quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi."

    I guess it could be argued, "Well, that genie is out of the bottle, and
    even t-shirts come with 'carpe diem' emblazoned on them, so everyone
    will recognize this special use of 'carpe.'" That point is well-taken. And
    it may even work for Latin, since the Horace poem was well-known.

    Nevertheless, the problem may not so much with the "carpe,"
    but with the abstract noun that comes after it. What will you use? "mutatio, mutationis, f."?

    (Note: Latin does not use abstract nouns as much as English; the tendency is
    to use constructions with verbs instead. English: "Our conquest of Carthage led to the
    death of many people"; Latin: "When we conquered Carthage, many people died" =
    "cum Carthaginem vicissemus, multi perierunt.")

    "carpe mutationem" = "pluck a mutation"? That's creepy.

    "carpe novum" = "pluck a new one"? "pluck a new thing?" (Actually, the semantic range of "carpe" also
    goes to "pick at" this could mean "pick at a new one"). It think a Latin speaker would
    react with the question "pluck a new what?"

    "carpe res novas" = "pluck new affairs"? "fiddle with the new account books"?

    I dunno. I think that using "carpe diem" as a model is not a good choice. In my
    opinion, it's not how you're going to get a Latin expression that intelligibly communicates
    the sentiment in the English "Seize change." Short, snappy expressions like this rarely
    translate directly. But that's just my opinion.

    As in most matters, I'm probably wrong.
    Last edited: Feb 24, 2013
  6. Mezzofanti Senior Member

    Near Bordeaux, France
    Native speaker of pukka UK English
    Doesn't Scholiast's suggestion res novas capesse solve the problem ? I vote for it.
  7. jrundin Senior Member

    USA, English
    Well, Mezzofanti, I think you ask a question that can't be answered. "capesse res novas" may get it,
    but, really, there are no native speakers of Latin around to ask, so we can't be sure.

    If you want to use "capesse res novas," I certainly can't prove it's wrong. And I think
    Scholiast has probably come about as close as one can come to a literal translation
    of "seize change" while preserving the the sentiment (Bravo, Scholiast!)

    Myself, I think it sounds a bit off, but I can't prove it. My discomfort is with "res novas."
    What does that mean? "res" is a really complex word. And "novus" is not much less complex.
    "new" in English has positive connotations; "novus" in Latin often did not. The Romans, on some
    level, did not like new things.

    The expression "res novas" most commonly means "revolution" or "seditious
    activity." eb110262 has already pointed this out (See Oxford Latin Dictionary definition 10 of "novus" and definition 14 of "res," which treats the plural of the word "res"; even smaller dictionaries I have consulted define "res novae" as "revolution" or the
    like). The problem is how you feel about "revolution." In the modern advertising and public relations world,
    "revolution" is good. Everyone wants to use a "revolutionary" toothpaste. It is not at all clear to me
    that such attitudes, which are a product of our own hyperbolic era, translate well. "Revolutions" are not traditionally
    considered good things. One of the most famous revolutions of all is probably Lucifer's revolution against God.
    We all know how that turned out and what sort of guy Lucifer is. The sword-wielding Archangel
    Michael got all the good press on that one.

    I think that "capesse res novas" might well be interpreted as "engage in sedition." In fact, that's
    how I myself would read it without any further context. In short, the connotation of "capesse
    novas res" may not so much like Apple's harmless "Think different," but something
    more like "Guillotine the oligarchs!" But I'm not a native speaker, so I'm not sure.
    The only possible way to begin to resolve this would be to find an actual attestation of the
    use of "capesso" with "res novas" as an object (which is quite feasible to do nowadays with
    current ways of scanning the corpus of Latin literature, but I'm not interested enough
    to do it). And even then, the question would most likely not be resolved.

    The issue is that short snappy slogans in ANY language tend to rely on the semantic
    and syntactic issues specific to that language. So they tend not to translate easily to languages
    that are distant in time or place. Now English and Spanish and French and German have
    enough commonality that, sometimes, such phrases can be translated pretty literally from
    English to these other languages. But even then, it's often impossible to
    translate slogans. And the further you get away from English, the
    less likely these phrases will translate. And if the sentiments do translate, they often have to
    be expressed completely differently.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013
  8. Mezzofanti Senior Member

    Near Bordeaux, France
    Native speaker of pukka UK English
    Jrundin, come to think of it I have to concede that the idea of political revolution may be too strong in "capesse res novas". What about "nova ne respueris" ?
  9. jrundin Senior Member

    USA, English
    I like that!

    I think that there may a fundamental problem here. In our hypertrophied
    capitalist world, we are always being told that new things and change are good
    in an attempt to whip us into a flurry of consumption and production.

    That whole social background is missing in antiquity; in fact, I'm not sure
    when it first arose in the Western World--rise of colonialism? capitalism?
    The ancients didn't like new things. They tended to think they were worse
    than what we have now, not better.

    To quote Horace:
    aetas parentum peior avis tulit
    nos nequiores, mox daturos
    progeniem vitiosiorem.
    Last edited: Mar 6, 2013
  10. Mezzofanti Senior Member

    Near Bordeaux, France
    Native speaker of pukka UK English
    Jrundin, I don't agree with the sentiment this thread is about either : I was just exploring ways of translating it !
  11. jrundin Senior Member

    USA, English
    Mezzofanti, I hope you didn't take offense at the "I like that." It was not referring
    to your post that now stands before it but to a post that was deleted , in which someone had
    posted an amusing translations..

    In any case, as I think about this, I think that the notion of "Fortuna" is relevant
    here--the illusory cycles of up and down. I think that perhaps something like
    "take advantage of changes in fortune" might somewhat render the idea.

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