ptolemyauletes wrote:Quo minus is actually two words, as so often happens in Latin with words that often are paired together.
quo is a neuter relative pronoun in the ablative case. minus is well... minus, an adverb meaning less.
Ah yes, it's good to point that out. It probably is helpful in most cases for modern students to know. On the other hand, just word of caution. (Not that you don't know this, but I think it doesn't get mentioned by classicists often enough!) We shouldn't assume in every case that the derivation of the word was transparent to the original speakers. We can see this with a few conjunctions that are used in modern English. "Nonetheless" and "nevertheless" are fairly transparent. When you produce or hear a sentence like, "It's raining out; nevertheless, I'm going to go to the library," anyone can break it down and see "nevertheless" = "never the less" = "it is never any less true that I am going to the library." Conjunctions like "notwithstanding" are not so transparent. "Notwithstanding the rain, I am still going to the library." If you start thinking about that closely, you might scratch your head and wonder, "How did it ever come to mean that?" You could research the historical reasons, whatever they are; but that would not
help you very much at understanding what it means in the present day. When you use the word, you are guided more by the countless times that you have heard the word in actual use; that shapes what the word comes to mean in your own mind.
Now, with a given Latin word, it is difficult to prove how transparent the derivation was to Latin speakers in a given period. It's possible that if you heard a Latin speaker use a sentence with quominus
, and you asked them, "Why did you use that word?" they might say, "Hmmm, I don't know, it just sounds right. It feels like it ought to be there." And then you follow it up and ask, "Did you realize that it consists of quo
, so that it literally means, 'by which the less'?" -- they actually might exclaim, "You know, I never thought of that! I guess you're right!"
We don't know. For some words, this scenario is undoubtedly the case; for the others, clearly not; most are in the middle. My point in saying all this is, By all means, yes, it's helpful for students to know the breakdown of words. But what really solidifies the meanings is when the read them in actual sentences, and practice using them themselves -- just as it would have worked for native Latin speakers. If they think of quominus
as "by which the less" every time the see it, they will really be distorting the meaning of the Latin text. (I know you weren't advocating this, I was just using it as a segue for the discussion!)