“What fresh hell is this?” is a question frequently uttered (or so it has been reported) by writer Dorothy Parker, on such occasions as when the doorbell or the telephone rang, expressing her displeasure at being interrupted in what she was doing, and her sarcastic sense of dread that no good would come out of it. It was the title of a biography of her and has also turned out to be a reliable resort for uninspired American sitcom writers. I like the sentiment and have wondered how to translate it to Latin.

My naive attempt is: Quae sunt recenta haec inferna?

Problem 1: This is more like “What is this new hell?” – making it a foregone conclusion that it will be bad, not a weary expectation.

Problem 2: Despite being the language of the Catholic church for the better half of two millennia, Latin apparently has no proper word for hell (Georges in all earnestness suggests: sceleratorum sedes ac regio). I went with inferna (sc. loca) here, but I feel while it captures the unimportant sense of “mythical place,” it fails to capture the important sense of unpleasantness.

Is there a better way?

  • FWIW, Thomas Aquinas uses "infernum" for hell in the "proper" sense.
    – brianpck
    Jun 29 '20 at 22:41
  • I think the nom. pl. would be recentia, but why not go for the more obvious novus? Quid novum hoc infernum?
    – TKR
    Jun 30 '20 at 1:34

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