jump to navigation

Cowboy Latin June 25, 2008

Posted by Pupster in Heroes, Literature, Movies, Philosophy, Women Ranting.

Woodrow Call: For all you know it invites people to rob us.

Gus McCrae: Well the first man comes along that can read Latin is welcome to rob us, far as I’m concerned. I’d like a chance t’ shoot at a educated man once in my life.

A few days ago, I met a very nice lady who teaches Latin . I asked her if she had seen the movie Lonesome Dove, because I’ve always wondered what the Latin phrase “Uva Uvam Vivendo Varia Fit” on the Hat Creek Cattle Company sign meant. Sadly, she had never seen the movie, and I could not remember all the words off the top of my head.

A few seconds of intensive Internets research later, I came across an on-line exhibit of archived production items from the movie, which is maintained by Texas State University. They have the sign itself, and translate thusly:

The Latin phrase that appears on the Hat Creek Cattle Company sign in “Lonesome Dove” is a garbled corruption, and there’s no direct translation. It derives from the scholia to Juvenal 2.81 which cites the proverb “uva uvam videndo varia fit” This means something like “a grape changes color [i.e., ripens] when it sees [another] grape”

A few more mouse clickys lead me to Clint from Cowboyology, who further explains:

The old proverb, which is used in Lonesome Dove, is more or less equivalent to our “one bad apple spoils the bunch.”

I guess I was expecting something a little more insightful.


1. BrewFan - June 25, 2008

Probably my favorite book of all time. And one of the few movies to do justice to the book it was made from. How could you cast the two lead roles better then Robert Duvall as Gus and Tommy Lee Jones as Call? You couldn’t, that’s how.

2. eddiebear - June 25, 2008

And Diane Lane was in it as well.

3. Pupster - June 25, 2008

This is probably the only time I’d have to say I enjoyed the movie more than the book. McMurtry is a helluva good writer, but he got way too detailed on the brutality of the old west for me. Just paragraph after paragraph of excrutiating detail on stuff best left to the imagination.

Plus…Diane Lane. Rowr.

4. xbradtc - June 25, 2008

Yeah, I’m getting that whole Diane Lane thing. I bought a romantic comedy just to see her.

5. eddiebear - June 25, 2008

“Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fuit.”

6. eddiebear - June 25, 2008

I always hated my Latin classes in grade school. French was more fun, while German and Russian were demanding and capricious.

7. Pupster - June 26, 2008

“Nullum magnum ingenium sine mixtura dementiae fuit.”

OK EB, you either ordered a shaken not stirred dry double vodka martini hold the olive; or you are casting aspersions about the intelligence of Mrs. Peel’s favorite Ferrari driving, hairy-chested Hawaiian Private Detective.

Either way, you’ll probably have a fight on your hands pert quick.

8. eddiebear - June 26, 2008

Naw. What I wrote is an old saying from Lucius Annaeus Seneca, the Younger, a philosopher and sometimes advisor to Nero.

9. eddiebear - June 26, 2008

“There has not been any great talent without an element of madness”

10. Pupster - June 26, 2008

Oh. Gotcha.

*gulps down ‘Eddie’s’ martini*

11. eddiebear - June 26, 2008

^I love my martinis dry and with three olives.

Oh, and use Bombay Sapphire, please.

12. Pupster - June 26, 2008

Who’s the Problem: coyotes or humans?

The ‘author’ leans heavily on the side of coyotes, but I’ve been amusing myself with the comments section.

Re: Who’s the problem: coyotes or humans?
If your less of a hippy than those sided with in this article, remember to yell, “HE’S COMING RIGHT FOR US!” before you shoot the coyote.

Fri, Jun 20, 2008 at 06:36 PM

Re: Who’s the problem: coyotes or humans?
Just give me a second to get my Birks on so I can throw myself between you and the coyote.

Oregon. Of course.

13. Pupster - June 26, 2008

“Coyote rules-of-engagement
In my younger years, I did substantial research on coyotes. I realized the following things are true about our lifestyle:

1. The Road Runner cannot harm the coyote except by going “Beep-beep!”

2. No outside force can harm the coyote—only his own ineptitude or the running failure of the Acme products.

3. The coyote can stop any time—if he were not a fanatic.

4. There may be no dialogue ever, except “beep-beep!” The coyote may, however, speak to the audience occasionally, through wooden signs that he holds up.)

5. The Road Runner must stay on the road—otherwise, logically, he would not be called “Road Runner”.

6. All action must be confined to the natural environment of the two characters—the southwest American desert.

7. All materials, tools, weapons, or mechanical conveniences must be obtained from the Acme Corporation.

8. Whenever possible, gravity should be made the coyote’s greatest enemy.

9. The coyote is always more humiliated than harmed by his failures.

10. The sympathy of the audience must lie with the coyote.”

“Wile E. Coyote”

14. Sobek - June 26, 2008

There’s one episode where Wile E. has some extended monologues. In particular, about how he is a super genius.

15. eddiebear - June 26, 2008

what about those flimsy umbrellas Wile E would open over him when that boulder would fall on him?

16. lauraw - June 26, 2008

I like how gravity doesn’t work until he notices he has run off the cliff.

17. eddiebear - June 26, 2008

^We need Geoff or Mrs. P to explain that one.

18. Muslihoon - June 26, 2008

Preferrably with charts and equations and long, polysyllabic words.

19. vmaximus - June 26, 2008

#7 Pupster,
Hahahahahahahah! I am still laughing! That was good!

20. MCPO Airdale - June 26, 2008

A good tort lawyer would have had the Acme Corporation in the hand of. . . . wait for it. . . Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius!

21. Michelle Malkin » Lonesome Dove explained - June 27, 2008

[…] got me thinking about Lonesome Dove was this post by Pupster at Innocent Bystanders. He was curious about Gus McCrae’s odd sign that decorated his Hat […]

22. lauraw - June 27, 2008


23. Pupster - June 27, 2008

*Lifts hands in air*

*Struts around office*

Can I get a hells yeah?


24. Dave in Texas - June 27, 2008

heh. sucka. you fell for it too.

25. Retired Geezer - June 27, 2008

We get a Malkin-lanche and those folks get to see a masturbating walrus.

*Michael holds his head in his hands, sobbing “I had a DREAM”.*

26. eddiebear - June 27, 2008

^glad to help

27. Sobek - June 27, 2008

I just looked at Michelle’s avatar and suddenly realized:

Skinbad is Michelle Malkin!!!

28. skinbad - June 27, 2008

It’s the only logical explanation.

29. cathy - June 27, 2008

Back on subject…

*like anybody wants to go there??!!*

… we own the entire Lonesome Dove on DVD.

I’m ready to watch it again,
but I think I’ll wait and do it with my honey.

30. eddiebear - June 27, 2008

My dad tells me the guy who played Blue Duck was the same guy who played the racist Army Surplus store in “Falling Down”. Is that true?

31. cathy - June 27, 2008

Don’t know off the bat.

I’ll get back at ya on that one…

…or mebbe somebody else in the goober-group knows.

32. cathy - June 27, 2008

Blue Duck was played by Frederick Forrest.

33. cathy - June 27, 2008

Nick, the Nazi surplus store owner was also played by Frederick Forrest.

Source IMDb for both. Great source!

34. eddiebear - June 27, 2008

^oops. I shoulda looked. My bad.

I’m kinda off my game today

35. cathy - June 27, 2008

btw -Rescued an old black wool cowboy hat from storage and cleaned it up and re-shaped it a bit. Also polished up the cowboy boots. So I’m ready for a Lonesome Dove Marathon when I get to Texas.

Anybody interested?

36. Pupster - June 27, 2008

Oh hells yeah. You need someone to drive the U-Haul, Cat?

37. Sobek - June 27, 2008

I just watched Lonesome Dove with Mrs. Sobek a coupla months ago, for the first time, after someone here recommended it. Good recommendation.

38. Mr Minority - June 27, 2008

Lonesome Dove Marathon when I get to Texas.

Cathy, down here we just call that week-night entertainment (when you can’t get to an ice house)

And come to think about it, you have some mighty fine ice houses and dance halls just north of you. Groene Hall, Borne, Canyon Lake all have them.

For you that are unfamiliar with the term “ice house”, it is like a combination bar, liquor store, dance hall and meetin’ place. Hell Canyon Lake even has a drive-thru liquor store on 306.

39. cathy - June 27, 2008

Mr. Min — Lived in San Antonio twice before — know the ice house scene well. Lived there when John Travolta came through to do his dance number on the Gruene Hall dance floor in the movie “Michael” about the angel as a matchmaker-of-sorts.

40. daveintexas - June 27, 2008


holy shit. I did not know that.

incidentally, you morons who’ve looked at my old band vids, the hall we played in had a pool hall downstairs, a great bar, but no liquor store.

41. cathy - June 27, 2008

^ Yep. Travolta was a big deal in little San Antonio. That stuff was on the news major during those shooting days.

42. cathy - June 27, 2008

Angel Michael dancing on the Gruene Dance Hall floor.

43. katie - July 3, 2012

Which episode of Lonesome Dove the miniseries, is the clip where they talk about the latin phrase on the sign?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: