Annals of LID

« previous post | next post »

Brad DeLong's quote is of course from the start of Cicero's In Catilinam, which is easy to adapt to modern uses:

quo usque tandem abutere, Catilina, patientia nostra? quam diu etiam furor iste tuus nos eludet? quem ad finem sese effrenata iactabit audacia? 

When, O Catiline, do you mean to cease abusing our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? When is there to be an end of that unbridled audacity of yours, swaggering about as it does now?

You'd think that Twitter would get enough Latin quotations to use a Language Identification (LID) algorithm that recognizes them. Google Translate detects the passage as Latin, and gives us back fragments of a translation no doubt found as such on the web:

how long will you abuse our patience? How long is that madness of yours still to mock us? To what end will your unbridled audacity of yours?

Bing Translator doesn't have Latin as an option, and autodetects the passage as English. I'm not sure where Twitter's idea about Portuguese comes from — maybe one of those strong priors?

Although the start of In Catilinam adapts easily to contemporary American politics, Cicero quickly takes a turn into darker territory than we currently inhabit:

O tempora, o mores! senatus haec intellegit, consul videt; hic tamen vivit. vivit? immo vero etiam in senatum venit, fit publici consili particeps, notat et designat oculis ad caedem unum quemque nostrum. nos autem fortes viri satis facere rei publicae videmur, si istius furorem ac tela vitamus. ad mortem te, Catilina, duci iussu consulis iam pridem oportebat, in te conferri pestem quam tu in nos omnis iam diu machinaris.

Shame on the age and on its principles! The senate is aware of these things; the consul sees them; and yet this man lives. Lives! aye, he comes even into the senate. He takes a part in the public deliberations; he is watching and marking down and checking off for slaughter every individual among us. And we, gallant men that we are, think that we are doing our duty to the republic if we keep out of the way of his frenzied attacks.  You ought, O Catiline, long ago to have been led to execution by command of the consul. That destruction which you have been long plotting against us ought to have already fallen on your own head.

And Catiline, unlike Trump, didn't evade military service. Those were very different times.

Cicero had a somewhat more positive appraisal of Catiline, some years later ("Pro Caelio" V):

at studuit Catilinae, cum iam aliquot annos esset in foro, Caelius. et multi hoc idem ex omni ordine atque ex omni aetate fecerunt. habuit enim ille, sicuti meminisse vos arbitror, permulta maximarum non expressa signa sed adumbrata virtutum. Vtebatur hominibus improbis multis; et quidem optimis se viris deditum esse simulabat. erant apud illum inlecebrae libidinum multae; erant etiam industriae quidam stimuli ac laboris. flagrabant vitia libidinis apud illum; vigebant etiam studia rei militaris. neque ego umquam fuisse tale monstrum in terris ullum puto, tam ex contrariis diversisque atque inter se pugnantibus naturae studiis cupiditatibusque conflatum.

Caelius espoused the cause of Catiline, when he had been for several years mixing in the forum; and many of every rank and of every age did the very same thing. For that man, as I should think many of you must remember, had very many marks—not indeed fully brought out, but only in outline as it were of the most eminent virtues. He was intimate with many thoroughly wicked men; but he pretended to be entirely devoted to the most virtuous of the citizens. He had many things about him which served to allure men to the gratification of their passions; he had also many things which acted as incentives to industry and toil. The vices of lust raged in him; but at the same time he was conspicuous for great energy and military skill. Nor do I believe that there ever existed so strange a prodigy upon the earth, made up in such a manner of the most various, and different and inconsistent studies and desires.



  1. KWillets said,

    July 19, 2015 @ 11:45 am

    That's surprising because Indigenous Tweets, which was started by a Twitter LI employee, has a robust Latin section, and many more obscure languages.

  2. Scott Mauldin said,

    July 19, 2015 @ 1:36 pm

    @KWillets Latin is the 9th most studied language in the US, ahead of Russian, Portuguese, and Korean. I wouldn't exactly call that "obscure".

  3. Q. Pheevr said,

    July 19, 2015 @ 1:59 pm

    @Scott Mauldin: That would, perhaps, be a reason to parse what Kwillets said as "[more obscure] languages" rather than "more [obscure languages]."

  4. Charles Antaki said,

    July 19, 2015 @ 2:05 pm

    Surely KWilletts meant more obscure than Latin? Perhaps 'less familiar' would have done better.

  5. KWillets said,

    July 19, 2015 @ 8:11 pm

    Obscure in the sense of not as ubiquitous as Latin, and somewhat hidden amongst the more attested languages.

  6. Scott McClure said,

    July 19, 2015 @ 8:48 pm

    I imagine that the Portuguese identification could have come from a model over characters, character bigrams, character trigrams, etc., as long as no Latin model was being considered. That is, I could imagine Portuguese beating other present-day Romance languages on a character-level metric.

  7. Jason said,

    July 20, 2015 @ 3:05 am

    Who decides where the punctuation marks go in Latin quotations? They (usually) aren't present in the original text. Why are anachronistic spaces, commas and full stops allowed, but not equally anachronistic capital letters at the beginning of sentences?

  8. Bmag said,

    July 22, 2015 @ 12:31 pm

    I think Scott is correct. The "-em" ending occurs frequently in Portuguese.

  9. Tom V said,

    July 23, 2015 @ 8:43 pm

    Google auto-detect got it in one–the power of big data.

RSS feed for comments on this post