I have just been watching an old TV series called Porterhouse Blue which is a Tom Sharpe comedy about an ultra-conservative and old fashioned university called Porterhouse. At one point there is a ceremony when the new college master arrives for the first time.

All of the words are spoken in Latin. The question is what are they saying? Is this Latin gibberish, is it a real ceremony of some sort or is it a hidden comedic ceremony in Latin? Switching on subtitles revealed the following:

Skullion the head Porter bangs on the college door:
Heu! Oui estis intus
Fores aperire iubeo
The Dean opens the door and says:
Qui nos iubet
Ecce magister, mister
The Dean:
Ergo. Fer patefactiat
Et qua sit auctoriatate renuntiatus
The Dean shuts door then the Master knocks the door and the Dean opens again.
The Dean:
Quisnam nos appellant
The Master:
Lussu regina ex auctoritate concilii
Primorum ac pontificum
Ab eoquem pennies est summa protestus
Magister modo declaratus
Hic ego adytum postulo
The Dean:
Mandatum tecum fers?
The Master:
Hoc signum ius meum declarant
Document handed over. Dean and others together:
Per Deum, per fidem reginae datam
Nos domus porteori socii
Te salutamus


This looks like legitimate Latin, though the transcription is a bit mangled. Here's the corrected transcript Sumelic located in their answer, edited a bit for standardization, along with my translation.

(There are a couple words I think might not be right, since they don't make a lot of sense. I've marked those with question marks; if I get a chance to watch the video myself, I'll see if those might be transcription mistakes.)

Eja, Qui estis intus! Fores aperire jubeo.

Hail, all you who are inside! I command you to open the doors!

Quis nos jubet?

Who commands us?

Ecce magister vester.

Behold, your teacher/master.

Ergo, fer(?) patefaciat et qua sit auctoritate renuntiatus

So, let your bring(?) be revealed, and by what authority it has been conferred.

Quisnam nos apellat?

Who, then, calls upon us?

Jussu reginae ex auctoritate concilii primorum ac pontificum ab eo quem penes est summa potestas, magister modo declaratus hic ego aditum postulo.

By the order of the Queen, from the authority of the council of the important people and pontiffs, from which derives supreme power, I, having been given the rank of teacher/master, request access here.

Mandatum tecum fers?

Do you bring a mandate with you?

Hoc signum jus meum declarat

This symbol/seal proclaims my right.

Per Deum, per fidem reginae datam, nos domus Porteori socii te salutamus.

By God, and by the faith given to the Queen, we, the Fellows of the House of Porter, welcome you.

Salutamus magistrum Dominum mirabilem celebramus celebramus splendide institutum

We welcome the master; we celebrate the wonderful lord, splendidly established.

Celebramus celebramus in gloria collegii

We celebrate, we celebrate, to the glory of the college.

Bene regale, bene aequale, bene regale est praesentium

Very regal, very equal, very regal is the person at hand.

  • I think "penes" here may be the postposition. "Porteori" would be a proper noun to express the idea of "Porterhouse".
    – Asteroides
    Sep 19 '19 at 1:03
  • @sumelic Fascinating, that's not a word I'd known! I'll edit that in. Any idea about fer?
    – Draconis
    Sep 19 '19 at 1:07
  • No; I was also stumbling on that word.
    – Asteroides
    Sep 19 '19 at 1:08
  • A few corrections to your translation: (1) fidem reginae datam means "faith given to the queen," (2) nos domus etc... means "We, the fellows of the house of Porter, welcome you," (3) "Dominum mirabilem...splendide institutum" almost certainly means "we celebrate the wonderful lord marvelously established." (The adverbial "splendide" is a hint that institutum is an participial adjective applying to dominum, which here isn't used for Deus)
    – brianpck
    Sep 19 '19 at 16:06
  • As for fer, my best guess is that it means, "Bring [the mandate], and let him show by what authority he has been announced [as master]." The problem is that the audio sounds much more like "fe"--I don't hear fer at all.
    – brianpck
    Sep 19 '19 at 16:08

Although I cannot read Latin well enough to offer a translation of my own, I can say that it is not gibberish, and I don't see any hidden comedy or jokes in the content of the Latin text. (I think whatever comedy is in the scene is supposed to lie simply in fact that they're using Latin rather than English, and in the pompous and ritualized nature of the ceremony itself.) There are typos in that transcript: for example, "oui" is actually "qui", and "Lussu" is "iussu". Also, it is not a single person's speech: breaking the text into the smaller parts spoken by each character will make it easier to understand.

Here is a Youtube video of the scene with another transcription and a Catalan translation in the description:

Porterhouse Blue 1987 Novus magister, from xmorente

Google translate gives the following translation of the Catalan (I edited it slightly to fix a typo):

Here is the Latin text of the fragment:
--Eia, Qui estis intus! Fores aperire iubeo. ( (Eh, you are inside! I order you to open the door)
-Quis nos iubet? (Whoever ordered it?)
-Ecce magister vester. (Your teacher)
-Ergo, fer patefaciat et qua sit auctoritate renuntiatus (So, that is demonstrated and announced under which authority)
-quisnam nos apellat? (Who asked for us?)
- Iussu reginae ex auctoritate concilii primorum ac pontificum ab eo quem penes est summa potestas, magister modo declaratus hic ego aditum postulo.
(By order of the queen according to the authority of the advice of the notables and pontiffs under whom there is the maximum power, I declared recently master I request access here)
-Mandatum tecum fers? (Do you have the mandate?)
-Hoc signum ius meum declarat (This stamp declares my right)
-Per Deum, per fidem reginae datam, nos domus Porteori socii te salutamus. (For God and due to the fidelity due to the queen, we, members of Porterhouse will greet you)
-Salutamus magistrum Dominum mirabilem celebramus celebramus splendide institutum Celebramus celebramus in gloria collegii Bene regale, bene aequale Bene regale est praesentium (bis)
(Saludem el maestro, admirable gentleman, celebrate it splendidly instituted, celebrate it in the glory of the school , real, equanimous is everyone present)

Obviously there are some mistranslations here (and I'm not sure that this transcription of the Latin is 100% accurate either), but you can get the gist of the exchange from this, I think.


Trying to answer the actual title question:

This is supposed to be the formal procedure by which a new Master (magister) of Porterhouse claims his right to the post, which Sharpe is trying to make pointedly ridiculous. The title 'Master' is appropriate here : it is simply that adopted for the head of this particular fictional college, where others in real life use such as 'President', 'Warden' and so on.

The whole novel is written in a style deliberately pointing fun at the pomposity, self-privilege and administrative incompetence of some English colleges of ancient foundation, a kind of criticism which some would say is not entirely lacking in justification.. For 'Porterhouse' read 'Peterhouse', the oldest constituent college of Cambridge University (but not Sharpe's own alma mater, which was Pembroke), some of whose members at the time of the book's publication appeared (or tried to appear) outraged at the perceived insult.

Tom Sharpe was a very popular comic novelist who would probably have been delighted with the attention his Latin is getting here. This really needs an English native to appreciate his humour, so I don't think this ought to be taken too seriously.

  • Actually, most Cambridge colleges do use "Master" for their head.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 20 '19 at 23:15
  • Quite so. I was trying to think of exceptions, but they are mostly, I think, Oxonian aberrations.
    – Tom Cotton
    Sep 21 '19 at 9:29
  • King's has a Provost. Queens has a President. Girton has a Mistress. I think there are a couple more oddities, but I don't remember them.
    – Colin Fine
    Sep 21 '19 at 14:04

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