September 28th, 2007

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I hate the internet, surprising no one.

I'm foolish posting on a Friday evening, but, hey.

I'm additionally foolish for making a post about Latin in comics and hoping someone cares, but hey.

So The Umbrella Academy, the new comic from Dark Horse and fresh faced eyeliner spokesperson Gerard Way, hit shelves last week. From all reports, it's pretty darn rad; I didn't get a chance to read it before it sold out.

However, flipping through the new Previews catalogue that came out this past Wednesday (you know, the one featuring INVINCIBLE PRESENTS: ATOM EVE #1), something in the Dark Horse section caught my eye.

This is a patch from a series of Umbrella Academy-related patches that are being made available in December, so you can show the world that you BOTH like My Chemical Romance AND are slightly more obscure than the average fan of that band also is.

Now, before I get going much further, allow me to say for those who might not know that I take Latin very seriously. I have to, otherwise my entire life has been a joke and a lie.

I have read an enormous amount of Latin in my lifetime. I have read numerous Latin authors from all periods of Latin history: Plautus, Terence, Vergil, Ovid, Catullus, Horace, Martial, Juvenal, Lucan, Augustus, Augustine, Jerome, Lactantius, Pliny, Livy, Seneca, Suetonius, Curtius Rufus, Hrotsvita, Geoffrey of Monmouth, Gregory of Tours, Thomas Aquinas, Abelard AND Heloise, Ludwig Holberg, many, many others.

I have also worked my way through several different textbooks, grammars, and dictionaries: Jenney's, Oxford Latin Course, Wheelock, Cambridge, some weird Catholic thing, Allen and Greenough, Gildersleeve and Lodge, Lewis and Short, et al.

None of that, however, gave me any inkling that the phrase seen on that patch, "Ut malum pluvia," might be anything other than Babel-nonsense.

I'm used to this. Latin in comics is almost always bad. Hell, foreign languages in American comics are almost unilaterally bad. I mean, check out the German in Bendis' Daredevil: The Golden Age trade paperback, where a guy is basically shouting in his best Babelfishese, "Please to be shoving him, sir! Please to be shoving him!" instead of "Shoot him! Shoot him!"

So usually I just shake my head and roll my eyes. But it's one thing when the offending motto is on the interiors of the book. In my mind, it becomes decidedly worse when it goes on merchandise such as t-shirts or stickers. I was once--true story, by the way--accosted in the street by a loudly swearing priest when I wore a t-shirt with questionable (but not technically "incorrect") Latin on it; I don't see why these people should get away with it.

I held my tongue when there were two horribly mangled Latin mottos in Matt F________'s C-s-n-v-, because I didn't want it to look like I was (perish forbid) saying something negative about the man. So some of you might have a t-shirt with the Latin equivalent of this on it:

Feel enjoy!

So here we have "Ut malum pluvia." I couldn't even begin to wrap my head around what that was supposed to mean--because I have the proper meaning of these words engrained in my head. However, thanks to the internet, I learned it's supposed to mean "When evil rains." Because they're the Umbrella Academy, right? Okay, good motto, I like it. Bad Latin, do not want.

The biggest problem here is that "pluvia" is a noun and not a verb. As in "I bless the rains down in Africa," not as in "When it rains, it pours."

"Ut" CAN mean "when," however, this is something like a quaternary meaning for it.

So "ut malum pluvia" is best rendered "rainshowers [are] like evil," or if I'm feeling mean, "rainshowers [are] like an apple."

Options that would be considered correct are: "cum malum pluit," "cum malum plueret," "cum malo pluit," "cum malo plueret." My personal choice would be "cum malum plueret." (This would be a cum-circumstantial clause, for those following along in their Allen and Greenough's.)

I pointed this out on a thread about the motto on Newsarama (I know, I know--the cesspit of the comics internet), and I kid you not--I kid you not in the least!--the next reply was "When evil rains? I'm thinking I might get a tattoo of that!"

Yes! Please to enjoydoing for to that for a good ideas of time!



So you might wonder what I might intend to do about it, other than bitch on the internet. The answer, in short, is nothing.

Why? Because ultimately no one cares. I could write a letter to the editor, but the only response would be, "Whoops, we already printed the book and the patches. I guess it's a good thing no one cares about Latin or correctness or anything that you care about these days except for people who are dead."

So, yeah. I'll rant on internet rather than exercising some futility.