Walter Scott Anagrammatized

Laudator Temporis Acti has an interesting post on Sir Walter Scott’s library. If you haven’t already read it, go and do so before continuing.

Done? OK, let’s continue.

I was naturally curious about the anagram, wondering how Scott’s library motto, clausus tutus ero, worked as “an anagram of his name in Latin”. It took a little while, but I eventually figured out how to equate the two. Quite a few adjustments are necessary, not least because Latin has no W:

  1. As “his name in Latin” implies, we must add -US to the end of both names. With four Us in the motto and none in the name, that’s an obvious first step. (Should we treat U and V as equivalent and make that -VS rather than -US? Yes: more on this below.)
  2. With only two Ts in the motto and three in the name, we have to omit the second T in Scott, making the Latin ‘Scotus’, as in Duns Scotus, not ‘Scottus’. Whether ‘Scotus’ would have been pronounced with a long or short O, I do not know.
  3. We cannot make Walter ‘Gualterius’, the usual Latin equivalent, because there’s no G in the motto, and we need two more Us. Instead, we must make the W – not allowed in Latin – into two Vs, as often seen in early texts of Shakespeare. This is where the V-U equivalence comes in: W may be called ‘double U’, but I’ve always seen it spelled double V when divided.

To sum up, the only way I can see to make ‘Walter Scott’ and ‘clausus tutus ero’ anagrammatically equivalent is to spell them VVALTERVS SCOTVS and CLAVSVS TVTVS ERO.

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5 Responses to Walter Scott Anagrammatized

  1. Robert Flammang says:

    There is a famous poem composed in Latin, 10th century if I recall correctly, called Waltharius. So Gualterius has some fairly early competition as a an alternative transliteration.

  2. The question of the pronunciation of “Scotus” is an interesting one. When I was a mediaevalist (in a rather distant past) I used to hear the name of Duns Scotus pronounced to rhyme with “he wrote us”. The same went for his ninth-century predecessor Johannes Scotus Eriugena. Nevertheless, there is an old joke about the latter, the source of which I cannot immediately verify (though our friend ? Wikipedia says it is William of Malmesbury) which depends on “Scotus” being pronounced with a short O. The philospher was drinking with King Charles the Bald, who asked, what was the difference between a sot and a Scot (Quid distat inter sottum et Scottum?) The answer, of course, was “the breadth of the table” (Mensa tantum).

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