Latin translation of "I remain skeptical".
June 2, 2010 9:34 AM   Subscribe

TranslationFilter: I need a Latin translation of "I remain skeptical."

I may use this for a blog, or a tattoo, or something. Basically just looking for a Latin phrase that conveys the same meaning. I'm looking for a permanent sense, e.g. "Always skeptical", or "Skepticism is an integral part of my character." I realize there may not be a one-to-one translation, so if any answerers could provide the Latin along with the rough English meaning, that would be super helpful.
posted by lholladay to Writing & Language (25 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Do you want the progressive future "I will remain skeptical" or the simple present "I am skeptical, still." The latter seems to be what you want, I just want to make sure.

If no one jumps in, I'll post back late tonight/early tomorrow, because my grasp of latin tenses is at this point shoddy at best.
posted by oddman at 10:19 AM on June 2, 2010

Best answer: Tamen dubito.
posted by Bromius at 10:27 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

remaneo, remanére -- to remain, to stay
dubius -- doubtful, skeptical

It's been many years since I took Latin, but I believe the correct form might simply be "remaneo dubium." Dubium? Dubia? It should be the accusative, yes? So "remaneo dubium." I think.

Actually, I remain doubtful as to the correctness of my translation, but I'll post it in case someone else wants to use the verb.
posted by brina at 10:32 AM on June 2, 2010

Always skeptical

The Marine Corps motto is Semper Fidelis which means always faithful, so you may be able to use semper [latin for skeptical].
posted by burnmp3s at 10:35 AM on June 2, 2010

Best answer: Skepticism was "founded" by Greeks, Pyrrho and Aristo, so I think Greek would be a better language for this than Latin. The simple word Σκεπτικός would be the kind of thing I would go for. (Or Σκεπτική if you're a woman). The Latin plural "Sceptici" refers to the followers of Pyrrho. The Greek Skeptikoi were also called (plurals) ἀπορητικοί (aporetikoi) and ἐφεκτικοί (ephektikoi). You should read up on classical skepticism to make sure that that philosophy corresponds to your idea of skepticism.

Oddman+Brina, any verb for "remaining" would be awkward, unidiomatic, and un-Latin for tattoo/motto purposes. "Semper scepticus" would be okay and recognizably mottoish, but not as good as Bromius's suggestion. "Σκεπτικῶς ἔχω" would be "I profess the Skeptic philosophy" and you could throw in the adverb "ἀεί" for "always, ever", but I don't have an idiomatic feel for where you should put it to make it most poetic and least schoolbookish.

I like "Tamen dubito" quite a bit too -- possibly even more than my Greek suggestions since it avoids the baggage of literally being tied to the classical Skeptics. Brina, yours is too literal.
posted by xueexueg at 10:37 AM on June 2, 2010 [4 favorites]

Yeah, I think you could just do "semper dubius," and leave dubius in the nominative. I think brina is right also with "remaneo dubium," with dubius in the accusative. I'm no expert either, but looks good to me. Perhaps thought someone has something more elegant, or something actually from a text.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:39 AM on June 2, 2010

There's a quote from Horace: "Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic, incredulus odi." Whatever you show me in an overwrought way, I detest and disbelieve. I think "Incredulus odi" would serve your purpose.
posted by bgrebs at 10:43 AM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

Well, the OP should jump in and say what he means by "dubious" or "skeptical," since the Greek and Hellenistic notions of this philosophy are probably quite a bit different than what we take the words to me now - and I bet the OP isn't trying to convey the idea of the Skeptic philosophy as understood by the Greeks. But I do agree with xueexueg (and clearly he/she knows way more than I do) that using remaneo is probably un-idiomatic. I actually don't like the tamen suggestion, but only because I think that's even more un-idiomatic. Perhaps something like Tamen remaneo dubium - Nevertheless, I remain dubious. So I like "semper scepticus" maybe as well.
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:44 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Another translation of the quotation I posted: "To all that which thou provest me thus, I refuse to give credence, and hate."
posted by bgrebs at 10:45 AM on June 2, 2010

incredulus odi means I hate disbelief, though, right?
posted by Lutoslawski at 10:46 AM on June 2, 2010

Remaneo is too literally "I stay in one place". "Dubius" is too deeply extended a meaning for "skeptical" -- idiomatically it would much sooner mean "irresolute", "wavering" or "uncertain". "Semper dubius" would be almost comical "I am steadfastly uncertain". If I found "remaneo dubius" in a classical text my first translation would be "I'm just going to stay here because I can't decide."

The Horace quote is nice but doesn't in itself contain the "overwrought":
"Quodcunque ostendis mihi sic" = "whatever you present to me in this way"
"Incredulus odi" = "I, disbelieving, hate [it]"

I don't mean to remanere here all day trolling other peoples' Latin, but I don't want the OP to be stuck with a hanzismatter Latin tattoo.
posted by xueexueg at 10:52 AM on June 2, 2010 [6 favorites]

It's been a while since I have read Latin, but please do not use "remaneo dubium". I believe it suffers from a number of problems. "Dubium" should not be in the accusative, as it's in apposition to the implied subject of "remaneo" (ego), and therefore should be in the nominative, I think. More importantly, though, "remaneo" is almost certainly not idiomatically correct, as many others have pointed out.

"Semper dubius" would be OK, except "dubius" can also mean "uncertain" or "hesitating." This is not what you want, I don't think.

I would really like "tamen dubito". It is grammatically simple - very low risk of error. It also has a nice idiomatic quality to it. However, I don't know whether "dubito" is what you want - you should consult a Latin dictionary. I'm not sure if Latin even has the exact word you're looking for.

"Incredulus odi" by itself would mean "I, being incredulous, hate." This is not what you want. (And it would be wrong if you are a woman - it would be incredula".

As I've said to others, I would strongly advise you to find actual classical Latin (i.e. provably written by a Latin writer) that says what you want, rather than trying to get a translation done. Or get a professor to do it. Internet classical language advice - my own included - should be viewed with extreme... skepticism.

Maybe you could take the whole Horace quote above.
posted by thumpasor at 10:52 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

PS - whether you are a man or a woman matters for the translation - I believe everyone in this thread assumes that you are a man. My apologies if you said this and I missed it.
posted by thumpasor at 10:55 AM on June 2, 2010

If you're going to take suggestions from this thread, listen to xueezueg or thumpasor. However, I do encourage you, before you make any permanent modifications to your body, to email a classics professor or something (I probably wouldn't frame the email as, hey dude i want this tattoo....unless maybe your alma mater is Reed) and ask. A huge part of the problem with the whole translating modern ideas into classical latin for tattoos and the like is that at the core you just really can't most of the time. Latin is dead, and has been for sometime, so it just doesn't have the vocab and meaning development that would allow smooth translations between it and another language. Like, if you ever try to read Harry Potter in Latin, half the words are made up (like "train" was something like "locomotus").
posted by Lutoslawski at 11:11 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Speaking as a Classics grad student, the problem with "remaneo dubitus/a" is that it comes out as "I, skeptical, remain." The emphasis should be on the skepticism, not the remaining, which boiled down to its essentials here means "am still." Hence my translation above.
posted by Bromius at 11:21 AM on June 2, 2010

Latin isn't entirely dead. A Jesuit classicist might be another person to ask.
posted by QIbHom at 11:26 AM on June 2, 2010 [1 favorite]

Response by poster: To clarify, yes, I am looking for something along the lines of: "I am skeptical, still". Or a state of always being skeptical.

Lots of answers to sort through - thanks for all the suggestions so far.
posted by lholladay at 11:27 AM on June 2, 2010

Response by poster: Also, yes, I am male.

Lutoslawski - You are correct that I'm not going for conveying the ideas of the Skeptic philosophy.

I am a fan of 'tamen dubito' - short, to the point, fairly memorable. (What's the verb there?)

Were I to actually get a tattoo of this, I would look for a professional scholarly opinion. At the moment I'm more looking for a 'recognizable' phrase I could use as a blog title, or something similar.
posted by lholladay at 11:35 AM on June 2, 2010

The verb is dubito, "I doubt." Tamen is an adverb meaning "still" or "however."
posted by Bromius at 11:38 AM on June 2, 2010

Non credo = I don't believe.

There is a proverb "Credo quia absurdum est" that translates as "I believe because it is absurd"
posted by francesca too at 12:20 PM on June 2, 2010

The Latin Translator offers help for people specifically with tattoo questions. They'll even teach you to say it right. I would think it's worth the money.
posted by Ljubljana at 12:46 PM on June 2, 2010

Best answer: Well, the classic sceptical motto is Montaigne's 'Que sais-je?' ('What do I know?'), which conveys your meaning very economically. But if you want Latin, you might prefer the Royal Society's motto Nullius in verba, 'Don't take anyone's word for it'.
posted by verstegan at 1:03 PM on June 2, 2010 [2 favorites]

It makes me think of Descartes. Cogito ergo sum - I think therefore I am. You could replace 'think' with 'doubt' maybe. Dubito?
posted by Laura_J at 1:05 PM on June 2, 2010

Best answer: dubito - I doubt / I'm uncertain
tamen - still, yet, however
tamen dubito - I'm still uncertain

I like tamen dubito as a translation. This form doesn't depend on your gender. Most of the other translations don't make sense.

I also like verstegan's suggestion nullius in verba - (take)"no-one on their word."

It's possible you could do something with incredulus. Credulus means naïve or gullible. Incredulus means the opposite, skeptical or distrusting. So you could say tamen incredulus sum - "I'm still a skeptical man," (this form does depend on gender), but tamen dubito is still shorter and pithier. You could also say credulus non sum - "I'm not gullible" / "I'm not a gullible man."
posted by nangar at 12:51 AM on June 3, 2010

Can I ask why it has to be Latin? Skepticism isn't a particularly Roman concept. You don't speak it, know so little about it that you can't pick the verb given a choice of two words, and I'm guessing nobody who ever sees it will either. If it's because quidquid latine dictum, altum videtur, just don't.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 1:56 AM on June 3, 2010 [1 favorite]

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