Quislibet has rendered into Latin a fragment of a currently popular song whose title line is rendered by Q as “domina mea exstat a tergo!” (My mistress stands out behind!). And, as I would have hoped, his efforts have been followed up by Zach Powell in Greek. (Via MetaFilter.)

Incidentally, all this reminds me of a book I saw in the Strand and almost bought: Global Pop, Local Language, edited by Harris M. Berger and Michael Thomas Carroll, which “examines how performers and audiences from a wide range of cultures deal with the issue of language choice and dialect in popular music.” But it doesn’t have a single essay on rap in classical languages.


  1. Eh, not to sound too grumpy but the ancient Greek version leaves much to be desired in terms of orthography, vocabulary and syntax… For starters the first word is feminine (H parthenos / Η Παρθένος – not to parthenos) and not – as the footnote actually makes apoint of emphasizing – neutral: (“It never ceases to amuse me that the word for “maiden” in Greek is neuter”)It isn’t neutral and the proper word here would be “kore” – but I’ll be damned if I get into a literary dispute about the proper way to translate *Sir Mixalot* (Arxwn Polymeiktos) in *Ancient Greek*!!

  2. Yeah, I found the Greek lacking as well. I don’t know if the “neuter” parthenos is a confusion with Parthenon (which of course is not neuter, but if you just have the English word bouncing around your skull it might sound like it) or a vague memory of German das Mädchen, but he’s going to be pretty embarrassed when he realizes that his emphatic footnote is hooey. But hell, anybody who could do an accurate version probably isn’t listening to Sir Mixalot, so I give points for just trying.

  3. Mad props to the translators. I don’t think I have the OCS chops to join in, or I’d bust out a translation, too. Uh…yo. 🙂

  4. Seems to me that calling the song “currently popular” kind of overextends the meaning of “current”. Unless it’s been covered or otherwise revived, I believe it’s been a good ten years since that song was on the charts.
    Also, I’m sorry, but removing the meter almost makes it a pointless exercise. That’s just parsing, not translation, in my grumpy book (I regularly do songs in my English-to-Swedish subtitling work, and following the meter is a minimum – rhyme is nice, if you can get it).
    Maybe latin is a damned sight harder to do that in, I don’t know

  5. OK, I’ll confess: I haven’t actually listened to top 40 music since around 1985, so I have no idea what’s currently popular; I just assumed that if it was being rendered into Latin that must be the case. I apologize for the lax research.

  6. Have you seen the work of Dr Jukka Ammondt?
    He sings Elvis in Latin, among others. (Someone else did the translation.)
    Some titles:
    Quate, Crepa, Rota/ Shake, Rattle and Roll
    Ai,Nunc Laudi Sis Claudia!/Lawdy Miss Clawdy
    But his magnum opus has to be the Three Songs in Sumerian. That one includes “Blue Suede Shoes”. The translation was hampered by the lack of a word for “suede” in Sumerian; he rendered it as “On my shoes of sky-blue leather do not step”. Someone else did the Sumerian translation, too.

  7. I suppose you already know about Rondellus?
    Other tangents: acoustic folk versions of Baby Got Back (oops, I see he now charges a dollar to hear it) and Straight Outta Compton; a salute to romantic consumptives, Baby Got Hack

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