A question - and a rant

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A question - and a rant

Post by phil » Tue Feb 23, 2010 1:18 am

Tarquinius's son has gone to the Gabinos as a spy:
Benīgnē ā Gabīnīs exceptus paulātim eōrum benevolentiam cōnsequitur, fictīs blanditiīs ita eōs adliciēns, ut apud omnēs plūrimum posset, et ad postrēmum dux bellī ēligerētur.

Kindly welcomed by the Gabini, gradually he cultivated their goodwill by empty flattery, till he had attracted them so much that among them he would be able to something, and finally would be elected to run the army.
I don't quite get plūrimum posset. I'm assuming that esse has been left out, but I still don't get it. He would be able to be most? What does 'plūrimum' mean here?

So, realising that my dictionary was perhaps lacking I went out and bought a brand new Chambers Murray, hoping for better luck. So, in this expensive new dictionary I find - by the way, the rant has started - plūrimum. Good start. Near the end I see plūrimum as noun with partit gen. [...] qui apud me dignitate plurimum possent! Yes! just the word I'm looking for, and in a similar phrase! But wait! No translation! So now there are two phrases I don't understand. F! Thanks very much C & M. And this is where the rant really gets going. You may wish to look away. Did it occur to the people who write these dictionaries, did the merest thought even begin to speculate upon the possibility of crossing their minds, that people use fing dictionaries to find the fing English meaning of a words, not just to fing see them quoted by fing Latin authors. Do they think the purpose of a dictionary is to show how fing erudite the compilers are? Oh look, aren't we clever, look how many times we've found this word while we've been reading. Yes, we'll show you the word, we know what it means, but explain what it means to you? Oh, no. that's far beneath our dignity. We'll just sit here in our big comfy armchairs drinking our port, laughing at all the little people who aren't as clever as us.

I feel a lot better now. Still wish I hadn't bought that dictionary.

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Re: A question - and a rant

Post by thesaurus » Tue Feb 23, 2010 4:08 am

I'm sorry for your lexical tribulations, phil.
Doleo te lexicis sollicitari, phil.

Here is the explanation offered in Lewis & Short (with, horribile dictu, many examples!):
Ecce exemplum e dictionario Lewis et Short (multis, I'm sorry to say, exemplis!):
A. To be able, to have influence or efficacy, to avail.
1. With neutr. acc. used adverbially (class.; cf. polleo): vocat me, quae in me plus potest, Plaut. Truc. 4, 2, 42: plus potest qui plus valet, id. ib. 4, 3, 38: qui tum et poterant per vim et scelus plurimum, et quod poterant, id audebant, Cic. Quint. 21, 69: quid ergo? hoc pueri possunt, viri non poterunt? id. Tusc. 2, 14, 34: qui apud me et amicitiā, et beneficiis, et dignitate plurimum possunt, id. Rosc. Am. 1, 4: plus aliquanto apud te pecuniae cupiditas, quam judicii metus potuit, id. Verr. 2, 3, 57, § 131; id. de Or. 2, 42, 180: quid aristolochia ad morsus serpentum possit, id. Div. 1, 10, 16: quoniam multum potest provisio animi ad minuendum dolorem, id. Tusc. 3, 14, 30: ad beate vivendum satis posse virtutem, id. ib. 5, 5, 12: multum posse ad salutem alterius ... parum potuisse ad exitium, Cic. Opp. ap. Amm. 30, 8, 7.—
As you can see, the key description you needed is that it is being used adverbially. I.e., "plurimum posse" means "to be most powerful." Literally, to be able to do the most. So "ut apud omnēs plūrimum posset" means "so that he could be the strongest among/of all."
Ut vides, sententia momenti qua es caritus dicit verbum adverbium agere. Id est, "plurimum posse" means "to be the most powerful." Id est, multas res facere posse.

You're right: dictionary definitions are only useful if they take the time to explain what the context is supposed to be highlighting.
Recte dicis: Solum si dictionarii cuntantur ut momentum exemplorum explicent usui sunt.
Horae quidem cedunt et dies et menses et anni, nec praeteritum tempus umquam revertitur nec quid sequatur sciri potest. Quod cuique temporis ad vivendum datur, eo debet esse contentus. --Cicero, De Senectute

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Re: A question - and a rant

Post by cb » Tue Feb 23, 2010 10:42 am

hi phil, if you can read french, you could supplement your current dictionaries with the gaffiot, which includes french translations of all the latin quotes it gives. you can check it online (and on pg 1192, middle column, 10th line down, it does state expressly that PLVRIMVM with POSSE means avoir le plus de pouvoir):


cheers, chad :)

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Re: A question - and a rant

Post by ptolemyauletes » Tue Feb 23, 2010 2:40 pm

This was my first dictionary, and very straightforward in its way. Not sure if the compilers drink port or not. Usually gives examples along with a basic translation.
To understand the phrase plurimum posset it is necessary to understand what possum really emans. It is, as you understnad, normally 'to be able' or 'can' and combined with an infinitive. But this is a common usage, not really what it means.
It is a compound verb formed from sum and the prefix 'pot' which is essentially 'potens' or some such from of power.

pot + sum = possum = I am powerful, hence I am
(This also helps to learn the forms of this verb, pot + s = poss. pot + e = pote, hence possum, but potest.)

So the verb really means to be powerful. plurimum as noted means very much. So plurimum posset means something like 'he became powerful', or 'he gained great influence'. Something like that.
The only thing we can guarantee when communicating via the internet is that we will be almost completely misunderstood, and likely cause great offence in doing so. Throw in an attempt at humour and you insure a lifelong enemy will be made.

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