ricelius wrote:How would one go about translating "the answer to the great mystery of life"? Using a genitive to tie "mystery" to "life" could be a way to go, right? As in "responsio aenigmatis magni vitae"? (My question is primarily syntactical, but comments on proper word use would be very much appreciated as well.) Would that be understood and not confused with, say, "the answer to the life of the great mystery"? (Not that the latter makes much sense, but still.)
When stacking genitives in this way, word order can become rather rigid, so there should be little confusion about what belongs to what. In those occasional cases where it is not entirely clear, basic rationality should be able to determine the ownerships.
However, the word responsio
is merely a 'response' in the strictest sense: something that a person says in reply. It is not like the English word "answer" which can also be a revelation of truth. I recommend you find a different word to express this. One such word is revelatio, -onis
, but it is non-Classical.
Then, let's complicate matters further: "the answer to one of the great mysteries of life". "responsio uni aenigmatum(?) magnorum vitae"?
The genitive of unus
, not uni
. Because there is no gender distinction in the genitive case unius
, it could very well be mistakenly paired with vitae
. For this reason, I suggest you either change the wording or use something other than a partitive genitive.
Your options for wording are rather limited, but you could say something like "One answer to the great mysteries of life".
As an alternative to the partitive genitive, you could use the preposition ex
. Responsio unius ex vitae aenigmatibus magnis
would mean basically the same thing as your original sentence. With vitae
between the preposition and prepositional object, there would be no confusion as to where the possession lies, though it could go at the end of the sentence as well.
Still another option might be a subtler distinction of word order: Responsio unius magnorum vitae aenigmatum
. The enclosed genitive makes it more likely that it modifies the words which enclose it.
Of all of these, I think the one with ex
is the best and clearest.
If the above is correct, then surely "I remember the answer to one of the great mysteries of life" would be, "responsionis uni aenigmatum magnorum vitae memini"? Would anyone other than the person uttering that (very philosophical) remark actually be able to make any sense of it? Granted, a simple declaration of "heureka!" would be much simpler and more to the point, but still...
Well, my teacher always used to say that if it isn't clear then it isn't good Latin. I beg to differ, but I think it is silly to be cryptic when there are usually more understandable ways to say things
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae