Never Send A Machine To Do A Man’s Job

James Lileks finds some coded Latin on a website, but concludes that it must be gibberish, since the online Latin translator couldn’t handle it. That just shows how stupid machines are. It’s not quite classical Latin, but close enough to translate. Lileks’ text is also missing the first letter — easy enough when it’s written in Morse code and the letter is an I. It should read:


Classical Latin would spell the second word GYRUM and the last one IGNE, but this is good Mediaeval (aka Vulgar) Latin. It means “At night we go into a gyre/whirl/circle/ring and are consumed by fire”. That’s not a very clear or satisfying meaning, but better than average for palindromes. With one more syllable at the beginning, it would be a dactylic hexameter: again, that’s probably the best meter we can expect from a palindrome. The version with ECCE (“look!”) inserted after NOCTE fulfills (barely) the minimum requirements for a hexameter, but the meaning is even clunkier.

This site has some interesting, but not entirely accurate, information on the words (click on Palindromes – it’s the first one on the right), plus much more of interest to Latinists. I don’t see anything macaronic about the line, and suspect that a moth would be at least as likely as a mayfly to fly in circles and be consumed by fire. I wonder if this gyre has anything to do with the one Yeats asked someone or other to perne in in “Sailing to Byzantium”.

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