Short inscription in a very strange variety of Latin?
February 17, 2010 11:39 AM   Subscribe

I'm working on an engraving with an inscription in a very strange version of Latin-- it has umlauts? Anyone know what this might say?

It's this engraving (click on the magnifying glass for more details). As far as I can tell, the words by Mary's mouth say "ecce ____" and the second word looks almost German! As to what is coming from Bernard, I've got no idea, except perhaps that the last word is "mater."
posted by RedReplicant to Writing & Language (10 answers total)
Best answer: Ecce Berde

Behold, Bernard.
posted by inturnaround at 11:43 AM on February 17, 2010

first up -- a few things I found on these St. Bernard images in general

I speak German and am conversant with basic Latin but I can't make sense of the word after ecce either... the words around the bottom of the throne are the typical attributes of Mary -- regina, mater, etc. From the links above and others, it seems that Bernard needed to accept the gift being given him, so from context I'd guess he was granting permission and Mary was saying something to the effect of "here you go, Bernie!" but damn, that script is hard to read. Umlauts only occur over vowels, for the most part (ä, ü, ö, etc), FYI. Sorry I can't be more helpful.
posted by at 11:47 AM on February 17, 2010

AHA! good one, inturnaround! all that umlaut-contemplating made me skip right past the "Berde" possibility!
posted by at 11:48 AM on February 17, 2010

I remember someone telling me that breast milk is a good remedy for pink eye.

Can you tell us where this illustration comes from?
posted by mareli at 11:49 AM on February 17, 2010

“Monstra te esse Matrem” (“Show yourself a mother”).
posted by biffa at 11:50 AM on February 17, 2010

Response by poster: Thank you bitter-girl and inturnaround-- the umlaut was what was throwing me as well. I figured out most of the words on the pedestal (since they're traditional attributes).

As far as Bernard himself is concerned, I was used to the images of the actual feeding but I decided to study this one because it appears to be a mimesis of liturgical practice, since a couple of the Catholic ceremonies at the time involved placing a mark or substance on the forehead of the Christian. I think this change in the approach to the subject may prove interesting.
posted by RedReplicant at 11:54 AM on February 17, 2010

For context, this was "just prior" (you know, as if languages just stopped and started) "New Latin," which did use three common diacritical marks. I could see this being an elaborate circumflex? From the above, however ("Berde"!) that suggests the name is being treated not as Latin. (I don't know a thing about Middle Dutch diacritical markings and how they utilized a diaeresis, but makes sense.)
posted by RJ Reynolds at 11:54 AM on February 17, 2010

Response by poster: Biffa, has the last word been abbreviated if this is the case? It seems to be missing the "m" at the end.
posted by RedReplicant at 11:55 AM on February 17, 2010

Just plugging some of the words into a search engine brings me to links that reference medieval English, (an example from "The N-Town Plays") which would have a mix of Latin and English (which has Germanic roots).
posted by cocoagirl at 11:57 AM on February 17, 2010

It's perfectly good Latin. The abbreviation-mark over his name is also a fairly standard one. "Ecce, Bernarde" = "Bernard, behold!" She is addressing him by name, so the name is in the vocative case, hence the -e ending.
posted by philokalia at 1:52 PM on February 17, 2010

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