- ‘Nos secundus concieto omnia’ was thought to mean ‘we confirm all things twice’
- But coniecto can also mean ‘guess’ – leading some to conclude that the motto meant ‘we second-guess everything’ – also an incorrect rendering
- Officials are planning to change the phrase to ‘we encourage all’
- The Roman numerals engraved on the library also need to be corrected to reflect the proper year
The Latin motto engraved on the wall of a new library in Moorestown, New Jersey, got lost in translation.
Officials had thought the phrase ‘nos secundus coniecto omnia’ meant ‘we confirm all things twice.’
But residents who Googled the phrase found out the word they thought meant ‘confirm’ can also mean ‘guess’ – prompting the leaders to pledge to change it.
Google software even came up with the ironic translation ‘we second-guess everything’ for the inscription, but that was based on a misunderstanding of the language.
Moorestown architect Rick Ragan told the Burlington County Times he learned of the problem from residents who translated it online – who also came up with a wrong answer.
In fact, the Google translate software also fluffed the translation of the words, which do not mean anything in that form because they ignore the rules of Latin grammar.
But they did pick up on the fact that the word the authorities thought meant ‘check’ could also mean ‘guess’.
Ragan says he’ll pay a stone cutter to change the phrase to something that means ‘We encourage all.’
He’ll also have the Roman numerals fixed to reflect the proper year.
Mayor Chris Chiacchio tells the newspaper a mistake is only a mistake if you do not have the courage to correct it.
The phrase was cut into two of four medallions on the library – which has been a multimillion-dollar project which took years to construct.
The Latin translation was attempted by a staff member who looked through a Latin dictionary, Ragan said.
Ragan said: ‘We’ve looked at the definition of the words. It says that the verb says, ‘think, include, conclude, judge and confirm.
‘But Google’s version, and I’m old enough to admit that I’ve never translated anything on Google or conjugated (anything). Their version is that ‘We all second-guess.’
CAVEAT SCRIPTOR: HOW MOORESTOWN LIBRARY FLUFFED ITS LATIN
When a library staffer took to a Latin dictionary to translate the library’s motto about checking everything twice, he or she should probably have consulted a second source.
Because by looking up each individual word, the ancient language’s grammatical rules got left behind, leading to a mess which barely means anything at all.
Even Google’s sophisticated translation software struggles with the complex rules of Latin.
While the enterprising Moorestown residents who looked up the sentence realized that ‘coniecto’ can also mean ‘guess’, the sentence as carved into the library’s stone – nos secundus coniecto omnia – still doesn’t mean anything because the grammar is incorrect.
While ‘nos’ can mean ‘we’, it is in fact unnecessary because verbs in Latin contain who is doing them in the way the word ends.
Coniecto – the verb in the sentence – means ‘I conclude’ or ‘I guess’, and is the root of the English verb ‘conjecture’. The correct ‘we’ form would be ‘coniectamus’.
Likewise, ‘secundus’ is an adjective meaning ‘second’, but even in conjunction with a verb meaning guess, does not mean ‘second-guess’.
The correct way to render ‘we confirm all things twice’ would be ‘bis verificamus omnia‘.
Bis, ‘twice’, is the adverb form of secundus (an adjective meaning ‘second’). The bi- prefix is familiar in English from words such as bicycle and biennial.
Verificamus means ‘we confirm’, and comes from the verb verificare, which in turn gives us the English word ‘verify’.
Omnia means ‘everything’, and is the root of words like omnivore and omniscient.