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<   No. 989   2005-10-11   >

Comic #989

1 Marcus: Eheu!
1 Julius: Quid est, Marce?
2 Marcus: My mobile phone bill is astronomical, and I've no idea why!
2 Julius: Well... where have you been lately?
3 Marcus: Hmm. Florentia, Octodurum, Lugdunum, Massilia, Burdigala, Mediolanum, Lutetia, Durocorturum, Londinium...
4 Julius: Ah. You haven't been paying attention to the Roman charges, have you?

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One of the marvels of the Roman Empire was its extensive mobile phone system. You could travel all the way from Italia to Britannia and stay in touch with amici and familia back in your home urbis. Of course, over such long distances you were liable for some hefty Roman charges.

For those unfamiliar with the delights of Latin grammar, "Marce" is the singular vocative case inflected form of the name "Marcus". So no, it's not a typo, it's very intellectual and high-falutin'ly correct.

Florentia = Florence
Octodurum = Martigny
Lugdunum = Lyon
Massilia = Marseille
Burdigala = Bordeaux
Mediolanum = Saintes (actually there were several Mediolanums (Mediolana?); one of them became Milan, but the one Marcus went to was the French town of Saintes)
Lutetia = Paris
Durocorturum = Reims
Londinium = London

I feel like I'm writing an Asterix book.


I received this e-mail from a concerned reader:
Iustinus Davidi Morgan-Mar salutem plurimam dicit,

Libellum tuum "nubeculatum" (ut hodie dictitant Latinistae) interretialem nuper inveni. Gaudeo te Latinitate peritum esse, sed in annotationibus numeri 989 parvum erravisti:

...stay in touch with amici and familia back in your home urbis.
sed "urbis" est casu genitivo. Tu sine dubio volebas "urbs." Praeter hoc optime rem tuam agis. Sed si vis adiutum de Latinitate, semper tibi licet epistulas ad me mittas.

Vale,
IVSTINVS

I am suitably chastened.
Another reader writes:
"Shurely shum mishtake?" as a Conneryesque James Stud might say. The ablative case is called for - "back IN your home urbe".
I'm just staying out of this!
2014-12-26 Rerun commentary: Thus are the risks of attempting to write Latin when (a) I have no real idea about Latin beyond what I can Google up in a few minutes, and (b) there are readers of this comic who are bona fide Latin scholars.

I actually went to the bother of buying myself a Latin-English dictionary at one point, just to help with writing stuff for Irregular Webcomic!. Now if only Collins also published Lojban, Quenya, and Klingon dictionaries as well.

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