8

Besides, its [of the Latin language] grammar also seems not to allow making statements that you would expect a truly natural language to allow, like "Heroes are never forgotten."
The Flat Earth Society, a conspiracy-theory web-forum

So, is that true? If not, do you happen to know where that claim comes from?

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  • Why the downvotes, actually? Nov 9 '20 at 11:12
  • 2
    Do you mean downvotes on this question? I see none on this question or the other one about Bacchus, only on the one about Wyoming. It could be a case of a retracted upvote, but retraction is only possible within a short time window or after a post is edited. Users with 750 reputation can see vote counts.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 9 '20 at 14:47
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Simple and sweet:

Heroes numquam oblitterabuntur.

If I had to guess, I would say the idea behind the claim is that oblivisci (to forget) is a deponent verb and has no (semantically) passive forms, so naively, if one wanted to say “to be forgotten” in Latin and only knew that verb, one would be a bit stumped. Oblitterare does not mean “forget,” it means “to erase [from memory],” but in the passive it does not necessarily carry the idea of an erasing agent, and simply means “to become forgotten, to sink into oblivion.”

The argument is still a little silly, as there are probably languages out there that have no passive voice at all and are yet able to express the idea of everlasting memory somehow.

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  • On that forum thread, somebody suggested the solution "Heroes oblivioni numquam dantur.". Do you think it's correct? Nov 9 '20 at 16:13
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    The phenomenon that some verbs lack certain forms that most other verbs have is not unique to Latin either. For example in English, the verb "must" lacks, as far as I know, not just a passive form, but also all past forms, future forms, infinitive, imperative, gerund...
    – Marc Paul
    Nov 9 '20 at 16:45
  • Yeah, that could work @FlatAssembler. It means something like "Heroes are never given to forgottenness." It would probably be a good question on its own.
    – Nickimite
    Nov 9 '20 at 17:35
  • @FlatAssembler It's OK, but in the present tense. I'd prefer the future tense ("dabunt"). And if you want to be really fancy, you can say: Memoriam heroum numquam delebit oblivio! Nov 9 '20 at 18:07
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I agree with Sebastian's answer: The original claim was probably about the difficulty of expressing this thought with the verb oblivisci.

But it's not impossible. You could say heroum numquam obliviscemur, which could be translated to English more literally as "we will never forget heroes". There are many possible phrasings, including nemo heroum obliviscetur, "nobody will forget heroes".

This might not be literally the same but expresses the same thought. And this is what you would actually expect of another natural language compared to English: not exactly the same selection of words and structures but the ability to convey the same messages.

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  • On that forum thread, somebody suggested the solution "Heroes oblivioni numquam dantur.". Do you think it's correct? Nov 9 '20 at 16:13
  • @FlatAssembler That means literally "heroes are never given to oblivion", and is indeed a good translation. You might want to change the present tense dantur to the future tense dabuntur, but either is valid.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Nov 9 '20 at 18:29
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If you want to avoid verb, "oblivisci", then try "excido";

"heroes numquam memoria excident." = "Heroes will never fall out of memory."

(Thanks to TKR in Q: Gone But Not Forgotten)

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