Illegitimi non carborundum, mock-Latin for "don't let the bastards grind you down", dates to early WWII, and later in the war was adopted by Gen."Vinegar" Joe Stillwell as his motto. For more, including variants, see Wikipedia.

Do users have any other well-known examples of this type: an English phrase translated into mock-Latin? It should be pithy and witty. Maybe the example I have quoted is sui generis.

Let's accept that it could be dog-Latin and that it is possible to dog-Latinize anything, anything at all. I'm not asking obscure dog-latinized doggerel.

I'm also not asking for a standard Latin aphorism known to Cicero. There are plenty of those, and they are easy to find.

Annus horribilis is not exactly what I was asking for, but it is close. Pithy, witty, not a standard Latin phrase, well-known. Illigitimi non Carborundum is of the same family, but a different species. I'll settle for canid, not necessarily canis familiaris.

  • And in the 60s, in my Latin class we chanted the related Ubi, ubi est meus sub ubi?
    – bib
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 21:17
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    In this sense, I think that Josh61 is right in his answer Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 21:43
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    I said as much that my answer is not in pig Latin, I admitted it! But annus horribilis is a neologism, according to Phrase Finder and Wikipedia
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 22:38
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    @Mari-Lou A No, your answer is not obsolete! I said your answer was a canid even if it wasn't canis familiaris. That means I am broadening my criteria. I'm beginning to think that this site and I do not have a good impedance match.
    – ab2
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 22:55
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    I'm voting to close this question as off-topic because it is not about English
    – GEdgar
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 23:27

4 Answers 4


One recently coined Latin expression that became very famous in 1992 was Queen Elizabeth's annus horribilis, meaning “a horrible year”. Although not "mock Latin", it was not an aphorism used in ancient Rome.

Derived from the Latin phrase 'annus mirabilis' - year of wonders (or miracles). Recorded since the mid 1980's but brought into popular use after Queen Elizabeth II used it to describe 1992 - the year that the marriages of her two sons Charles and Andrew broke down and Windsor Castle caught fire.

source: Phrase Finder

Another pseudo Latin aphorism, one which Harry Potter fans will instantly recognize:

Draco Dormiens Nunquam Titillandus

It is the motto of Hogwart's School of Witchcraft and Wizardry and stands for “Never tickle a sleeping dragon”.

This invented Latin phrase tickled my fancy, Mellita, domi adsum; “Honey, I'm home.”

Other amusing phrases from Latin for All Occasions, by Henry Beard can be found here.

  • This is on the right track.
    – ab2
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 22:15
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    Annus Horribilis is not mock Latin, it is just a paraphrase of a more known Latin expression.
    – user66974
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 22:18
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    @Josh61 I said as much in my answer. Your examples, on the other hand, are not "well-known"
    – Mari-Lou A
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 22:21
  • How familiar are you with "Illegitimi non carborundum"? I think there mock Latin expressions are not that popular or famous, apart from, probably, college/university contexts. The one you offer is a good example of a well-known, non mock one.
    – user66974
    Commented Jan 17, 2016 at 22:29

Urban Dictionary has an entry on a favorite among Latin professors:

semper ubi sub ubi

Latin/English sound pun. The direct translation from Latin to English is "Always where under where." When spoken it comes out as "Always wear underwear."

In a comment, @bib gives the variant: ubi, ubi est meus sub ubi? ("Where, where is my under where?").

Also, the podcast Harmontown uses

Scribimus latinum sine intellectum.

which means "We write Latin without understanding."

This is very similar to another Latin joke:

Si hoc legere scis, nimis eruditionis habes.

which means "If you can read this, you're overeducated."

Lastly, here is a list of anachronistic Latin phrases. Some of my favorites include:

  • Sic biscuitus disintegratum ("That's the way the cookie crumbles")
  • Magnus Frater spectat te ("Big Brother is watching you")
  • Noli habere bovis, vir! ("Don't have a cow, man!")
  • Vescere bracis meis ("Eat my shorts")

I doubt that any of these are "well-known."


A letter from Julian Dare, Oxford, to The Times newspaper, as quoted in The Week magazine (sorry I don't have dates, it was a cutting):

The headmaster of my school once informed all parents that regrettably the school fees had to be increased by £500 per annum. His secretary unfortunately omitted one "n" in "annum". This resulted in one parent replying that he personally would prefer to go on paying "through the nose" as he had always done in the past.

  • Good one!. Reminds me of the story (maybe apocryphal) of the college president, who, on receiving a very large donation from an alum, said in a speech "Lord, we thank you for this succor." The donor was present and heard "sucker."
    – ab2
    Commented Jan 18, 2016 at 0:01

There's the old saw about the monument to Sir Christopher Wren in St. Paul's Cathedral...


which actually means 'if you seek his monument, look around you', but is invariably translated for gullible tourists as

for Monument, take the Circle Line.

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