The Berkshire Eagle has an article today that goes into more detail about translation from Latin than any newspaper article I’ve seen in a long time. It seems that the motto of the town of Pittsfield (as well of Pittsburgh), “Benigno Numine,” has been translated by St. Joseph’s Central High School Latin teacher Kathleen Canning as “Under Protection of the Goddess.” The paper quotes her as saying that
benignus has masculine, feminine and nongender endings, and that “benigno” is the “neuter form” of the noun.
Because both words in the city motto contain endings with no specific gender, they could be used to refer to a “goddess,” Canning said.
I’ll be charitable here and assume the reference to the adjective benignus as a noun is the paper’s mistake and not Canning’s, but the idea of translating numen as “Goddess” is just silly, I don’t care what they told her in civics class. The story goes on to say that “Mary C. Quirk, who teaches Latin at Miss Hall’s School, found 17 possible translations for the city motto, ranging from ‘propitious divine will’ to ‘with kind-hearted favor or approval (of the gods),’ to ‘with benign power,’ to ‘by beneficent authority’”; any of them would be a great deal better. (Thanks for the tip, Leslie!)