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The Beauty of Latin: Flocci non Facio

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The Beauty of Latin: Flocci Non Facio Essay

If there is one important thing I have learned as a Latin student, it is that if Latin were translated 100% literally, the English translation would make less sense than the original Latin text itself. The beauty of Latin rests in the multiple meanings of many words, and therefore Latin literature is open for a wealth of interpretation. That same beauty is found in the phrase “flocci non facio." Not only is it a fantastic example of alliteration, but its literal meaning is also peculiar in the most entertaining way possible.

“Flocci non facio” literally means “I do not make a tuft of wool,” but this literal meaning does not do the phrase any justice whatsoever. If I were to say “I do not make a tuft of wool” to my peers at school, I would promptly be sent to the nurse’s office; however, if I say “flocci non facio” to my classmates during Latin class, they would nod their heads in acknowledgement. My Latin textbook amusingly translates “flocci non facio” as “I do not give a hoot,” but even that phrase, in my opinion, does not properly express the meaning. “Flocci non facio” essentially means that something is so trivial that it is less important than a piece of lint, so the person saying it clearly does not care at all about the matter at hand.

What I appreciate so much about this phrase is that it shows how similar people were hundreds, even thousands of years ago to how people are now. Humanity was always deeply idiosyncratic. Roman culture is intricate, full of strange customs and practices. For example, the Romans considered mice to be a delicacy, whereas nowadays mice are pests that people would not even think of eating. These lifestyle inconsistencies can make Latin rather hard to learn, and even harder to translate in a way that would convey the language’s meaning properly. But a phrase like “flocci non facio,” while difficult to translate, shows that even the Romans needed an exaggeration to show their complete apathy. People back then could be just as frank as people are now, and that is something I find comforting and hilarious.

Whenever I see the phrase “flocci non facio,” I generally hesitate to translate it, because the novelty of the phrase gets lost in translation. There is no English representation that can match “flocci non facio” in quirkiness and sassiness, nor can English convey the casual sarcasm that the phrase represents. Its meaning is much more novel than “I couldn’t care less” or “I don’t give a hoot,” so by translating “flocci non facio” into English, the absurdity and silliness of the saying are sacrificed. In that sense, to preserve its true meaning and entertainment value in Latin literature, “flocci non facio” should not be translated into English. Those oddball Romans, even today, should speak for themselves.

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