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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 rememberĀ 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.