Another little puzzle inside Little Office of the BVM, Baronius Press, which is based upon the Gallican Psalter.

Psalm cxxi has:

Stantes erant pedes nostri, in atriis tuis, Jerusalem.

Which it translates:

Our feet were wont to stand: in thy courts, O Jerusalem.

This translation surprises me because I cannot detect within the Latin sentence the element of desire nor privation. As a beginner, it seems to me to say, more simply:

Our feet were standing in thy courts, O Jerusalem.

The first, mysterious (to me) translation fits the context better than my own. I just see no justification for it within the sentence itself.

Is this perhaps another Hebraism? Or some Latin idiom I have yet to learn? Or something else entirely?

  • 1
    There can be more to it here, but I cannot resist making this comment: Fitting context is more important than translating every sentence exactly as such. When translating text, a story is read in one language, understood, and retold in another language. If the desire or deprivation are understood to be there from context and English offers a simple way to convey it, why not? Justification need not be within the sentence itself.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 17:37

1 Answer 1


Forgive me if I'm missing something, but:

I think your issue here may be with the English rather than the Latin. To say that something "was wont to do" something ("wont" with an o and no apostrophe rather than "want" with an a) is an archaic way to say that it "was used to doing" something or "used to do" something.

So rather than desire or privation, the English is saying (in a more modern translation)

Our feet used to stand in your courts, Jerusalem.


Or feet were accustomed to stand in your courts, Jerusalem.

Which seems like a translation closer to the original.

  • Ah, that seems to make my question off-topic? Shall I delete it? Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 18:24
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    @DavidCharles, I'm in favor of keeping it. It was a question about translating from Latin, although the answer turned out to be less related to Latin. (And I think the system won't allow you to delete a question with an answer with positive score.)
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 18:32
  • 1
    Yeah, since the question is about Latin, I'd say it should stay. You're safe! Commented Jun 30, 2016 at 18:46

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