DODRANS.

Brother Auger, who did his best to imprint Latin upon me almost half a century ago, would not be happy, but I fear I was unfamiliar with the basic-sounding number word dodrans ‘two-thirds,’ which I learned today (thanks, Sven!) from the website for “the splendid clipper ship City of Adelaide – the oldest clipper ship in the world.” In their post on “a 175th Jubilee project to commemorate the birthday of the state of South Australia in 2011,” they have a whole section on what to call a 175th birthday or anniversary:

Latin terms for a 175th anniversary are not in wide spread use. Some terms that have been used in modern times include the following definitions (from Wikipedia):
• Demisemiseptcentennial – broken down as demi- (half) x semi- (half) x sept- (7) centennial (100 years) = 175 years.
• Quartoseptcentennial – broken down as quarto- (¼) x sept- (7) centennial (100 years) = 175 years.
• Terquasquicentennial has been used as a word for an anniversary of 175 years. The originator intended it to mean “[one] and three quarters” but Wikipedia suggests that it incorrectly adds the root elements rather than multiplying them. [...] Notwithstanding that the Wikpedia definition suggests it is wrong, terquasquicentennial is one of the most frequently used terms for 175 years.
• Septaquintaquinquecentennial has also been used as a word for an anniversary of 175 years. It appears that the originator was trying to create the number 175 but instead it literally refers to an anniversary of 35,000 years as follows: septaquinta- (70) x quinque- (5) x centennial (100 years).
Roman fractions were based on a duodecimal system. From 1/12 to 8/12 they were described as multiples of twelfths (uncia “twelfth”; the source of the English words inch and ounce) and from 9/12 to 11/12 they were described as multiple-twelfths less than the next whole unit – i.e. a whole unit less 3/12, 2/12 or 1/12 respectively. There were also special terms for quarter (quadrans), half (semis), and three-quarters (dodrans). Dodrans is a Latin contraction of de-quadrans which means “a whole unit less a quarter” [...] The personal preference of the author of this webpage for a 175th anniversary is: Dodransbicentennial (Dodrabicentennial) or Dequasbicentennial for 175 years. [...] As an extension to these thoughts, perhaps “dodranscentennial” or “dequascentennial” without the “bi” are probably the appropriate term(s) for a 75 year anniversary.

Charmed but bemused, I welcome the thoughts of those whose Latinity is above the level of my own (a low bar indeed).

Comments

  1. I have no Latinity at all, and nothing to offer except boring reminiscences. I happened to learn the prefix sesqui- as a child, in 1963, by virtue of living in a town that was celebrating the 150th anniversary of its incorporation. This gave me a leg up when I ran into it again, twice: once in the jocular and self-referential word sesquipedalian and once in the rarely used and somewhat witty mathematical term sesquilinear, which means (of a complex quantity depending on two complex vectors) linear in the first variable and antilinear in the second.

  2. What? Two thirds or three quarters?

  3. Oh, but if we’re talking about sesqui-, we mustn’t forget the sesquisyllable.

  4. What?
    ¾. ⅔ is bes (binae partes assis).

  5. Actually, “two-thirds” is not particularly basic in the sort of literary genres that Latin reading usually centers on — I’m an undergraduate Latin major and never ran into that word either. I imagine it would be commoner in technical and military texts, but I, personally, was more into poetry and “literary” prose.

  6. Epig. 8.9. 11.36.

  7. In Spanish (at least), the prefix “sesqui-” means a unit and a half (as in sesquicentenary) and also if there is an ordinal number then it designates this unit plus the fraction enunciated by the ordinal, as in “sesquidécimo” (“décimo” is tenth): 1.10

  8. Money, as usual, is where the rubber hits the road. The dodrans is 3/4 of an as, and so stupid a figure that it was used only two years in the late republic. Other fractional coins are not unheard of as well. Check here for details.

  9. dearieme says:

    A few general elections ago the Monster Raving Loony Party promised that, if elected, it would introduce a 99p coin.

  10. I’ve just been editing a book on late antique mathematics, and have been enjoying ‘sesquialter’, ‘subsesquialter’, ‘subsesquitertian’, ‘subquadruplex’, ‘subduplex-superbitertian’, and so on. Once you get into ratios, you can forget it.

  11. Garrigus Carraig says:

    My Latin education was similar to Vaska’s.
    Wikipedia does a good job with Latin fractional terms. I double checked a few of them in Lewis and Short, which bore them out.

  12. The late Larry Trask joked that he was pi-lingual, and in imitation I usually describe myself as sesquilingual – the more I learn of one language, the more I forget of another.

  13. “How jolly the lot of an oligoglot,” says Douglas Hofstadter (English, French, Italian).

  14. marie-lucie says:

    This should be written as a couplet:
    How jolly the lot
    Of an oligoglot

    I am sure some of you would be able to continue the poem (or song) …

  15. Tim May says:

    I once learned, from a list of obscure words, the term dodrantal meaning “nine inches long” (i.e. ¾ of a foot). The OED has citations from 1656 and 1883, but they’re both definitions, suggesting it may never have been in common use. (The earlier actually says “of nine ounces or nine inches in length or weight”; I wondered if that should have been “twelve ounces”, but the reference is probably to troy weights, in which there are 12 ounces to the pound.)

  16. Trond Engen says:

    And a dodrant removes 3/4 of unwanted odor.

  17. The OED has citations from 1656 and 1883, but they’re both definitions, suggesting it may never have been in common use.
    Fortunately, Google Books frees us from dependence on OED citations. It was, of course, never in common use, but it has been used at least a couple of times outside of dictionaries: “he could attain these Divisions by a continual Bissection of the Dodrantal Arches” (Samuel Cunn, 1729); “saying this, he shewed his own dodrantal Helve” (Rabelais, tr. W. F. Smith, 1893).

  18. Borrowing in Smith’s case; Urquhart went with “nine-inch.”

Speak Your Mind

*