I understand that a legitimate, though perhaps uncommon, way to introduce oneself in Latin is:

[Ego] sum Iulius

I also know that in Latin, as in English, people's names are often connected to their occupations. So in English we have the name Smith, and in Latin we have the name Faber.

In English, because of the rules relating to the use of articles, someone named "Smith" can safely use the "I am" construction to introduce himself: "I'm Smith" cannot refer to his profession (that would be "I'm a smith").

But Latin has no articles, of course, so I wonder how the following sentence, when spoken, would be understood:

Sum Faber

Does this always mean "I am a/the craftsman"? Or is it ambiguous without context?

Put another way, if used in the context of introductions, would it be immediately understood as "My name is Faber," or would the listener wonder why the speaker is talking about his profession prior to providing his name?

  • 1
    I don't time now to answer, but this isn't a uniquely Latin problem. French doesn't use the article for a profession either, e.g. "Je suis forgeron [de mon métier]" vs. "Je suis ["m'appelle"] Forgeron."
    – brianpck
    Aug 1 '16 at 16:43
  • 2
    The same in German. “Ich bin Müller“ means “my name is Müller“ or “I am a miller“.
    – fdb
    Aug 1 '16 at 22:44
  • I think it's the same in almost any language that has professions as names and uses the verb "to be" when referring to one's name Aug 3 '16 at 10:50
  • @boban. But not (for example) in English, where you must say: "I am a miller".
    – fdb
    Aug 4 '16 at 14:51
  • @fdb touché, you're right Aug 4 '16 at 14:52

I actually just spent a week with a bunch of living Latinists one of whom was named Faber, so I can say that with context there's no question.

However, "Faber" was not at all a Roman name, and I sort of feel like if you were transported back in time and said this, it would be like introducing yourself today to somebody as Ablacksmith. "Hi, I'm Ablacksmith." That is, without any context, no, it wouldn't make sense.

Today I sort of feel like it would be fairly clear from the social context whether somebody was giving you his name or his profession. If you meet somebody at a cocktail party and say, Hi, I'm Nathaniel, and he responds, Faber sum, it's a fair bet he's giving you his name. If it's not clear, you could always ask.

But absent any context, social or verbal, I'd say it would be better to stick with Fabrum me vocant or Nomen mihi est Faber.

  • 1
    It is true that Faber is not a Roman name. But there is the renaissance writer Jacobus Faber (alias Jacques Lefèvre d'Étaples).
    – fdb
    Aug 1 '16 at 22:56
  • @fdb That's true—I didn't think about post-classical names. Though it doesn't change my suggestion to use nomen mihi or vocant. Aug 4 '16 at 21:58

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