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vivendi, uti, and Harry Potter

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vivendi, uti, and Harry Potter

Postby autophile » Tue Sep 30, 2008 9:19 pm


I'm attempting to work my way through the "official" Latin translation of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone (Harrius Potter et Philosophi Lapis). The first sentence is really bugging me. I'm pretty sure I know what the sentence means to say, but I can't fit it in with the words themselves:

Dominus et Domina Dursley, qui vivebant in aedibus Gestationis Ligustrorum numero quattuor signatis, non sine superba dicebant se ratione ordinaria vivendi uti neque se paenitere illius rationis.

My poor attempt at translation:

Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, who were living in the rooms designated as number four Privet Drive, were saying not without pride that to be enjoyed [uti], they must be lived [vivendi] with ordinary regard, nor that they displeased in that regard.

(The English first sentence is: "Mr. and Mrs. Dursley, of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.")

What am I missing?


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Postby Alatius » Tue Sep 30, 2008 10:29 pm

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Postby autophile » Wed Oct 01, 2008 12:01 am

Ah, I hadn't realized that the gerund masquerades as a future passive participle, so that vivendi = of living.

However, I'm still not clear as to the way uti is used. I understand that it's a present passive infinitive used in an indirect statement, so "they said themselves to be used" = "they said they were used", but in English, there is "to be used (by someone)" and "to be used to (something)".

It just seems to me that the two usages have two different meanings, and that "to be used to" would be better said as assuesci?

Of course, who am I to argue -- the guy who did the translation to Latin taught Classics at Eton for 30 years.
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Postby Kasper » Wed Oct 01, 2008 12:24 am

you are correct that in English:

being used to = being accustomed to
to use = to make use of / to utilize

in Latin:
to be accustomed to = assuescere
to use = uti

The verb uti, despite its passive form, has an active meaning. It is deponent and does not take the accussative. Because it actually takes the ablative, it may be useful to think to the word as meaning 'to make use [of]'.

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Postby adrianus » Wed Oct 01, 2008 12:34 am

also in English...
L&S wrote:utor = "...g. To perform, exercise, practise, etc;...k. Of passions, traits of character, etc., indulge, to practise, exercise, yield to..."
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Postby thesaurus » Wed Oct 01, 2008 1:59 am

To highlight what others have already said, I think the biggest obstacle for your understanding is that some verbs (like "utor") take the ablative instead of accusative case for their objects. "verbis utor" = "I use words". Another frequent verb in this category is "fruor" "I enjoy," as in "discendo fruor"=
I enjoy/like teaching." Likewise, you might encounter verbs that take the dative case, especially with verbs that signify combat or conflict, e.g. "obstare," "to oppose." "mihi obstant"="they oppose/hinder me."

There is also the issue of deponent verbs, but those verbs all follow the rules others mentioned.
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Postby autophile » Wed Oct 01, 2008 2:32 pm

I understand now, so that dicebant se ratione ordinaria vivendi uti should be translated as they were saying that they enjoyed an ordinary manner of living. (ratione correctly being in the ablative).

Thank you all!
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