Wednesday, October 1, 2008

a burning torch that's turned upside down..

"Quod me nutrit me destruit."

Class, raise your hand if you know what this Latin phrase means?  WHOA, chill out, I said 'raise your hand'!  Okay, so you've all been doing your Latin homework, apparently.  Good for you guys.  Now, raise your hand if this phrase haunts you.

Me too.

For those who don't study Latin or an infamous, terrifyingly-tragic web community, the above phrase translates into, "What nourishes me also destroys me."  Often used in association with fun - yet destructive - lifestyles (drugs, sex, and rock & roll?), this is also the unofficial motto of the pro-eating disorder community.  So, as that is how the phrase is most commonly found, I thought it would be interesting to delve deeper into its origin.

This particular line actually has no known author or source within classic Latin literature.  It is a spin-off phrase that comes from "Quod me alit, me extinguit," which means, "What feeds me, extinguishes me," or "Qui me alit, me extinguit," meaning, "Who feeds me, extinguishes me."  The second one gives a much different meaning to the overall idea.  This was first printed on a portrait of a student (believed to be Christopher Marlowe) of Corpus Christi College (Cambridge, UK).  A few years after the portrait was estimated to be done (1585), Shakespeare wrote the play, "Pericle, Prince of Tyre," in which the line appears in Act II, Scene II.

It's nice to associate the phrase with something other than starvation.  Maybe we can spread the concept.


1 comment:

KC Elaine said...

you know, I hate my Latin class, but I got this phrase right away. too bad. yeah, let's make it mean something other than starvation. annnd, how did you get the tags widget on the right of your blog?