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it's been a few years since I was in a Latin class, but I've been wanting to get a tattoo in the language for a while now, and "Remember death, but do not forget to live" is the phrase I've decided on.

Using what limited knowledge I still have and some googling, I've come up with:

"Memento mori, autem noli oblivisci vivere"

The fact that I'm using two infinitives in a row is setting off my "this is wrong" detectors, and I was hoping someone could guide me in the right direction. Thanks!

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  • "Memento mori" means "Remember to die!", it is also rendered in other ways described in Q: latin.stackexchange.com/q/12603/1982. You need the noun, "death" = "mors"; giving "Memento mortem...".
    – tony
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 11:19
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    @tony Shouldn't that be "memento mortis"?
    – gmvh
    Commented Nov 15, 2020 at 19:16
  • @gmvh: Defective verb "memini" can take the genitive or accusative, therefore you are equally correct.
    – tony
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 10:13
  • @tony: doesn't that alter the meaning? I seem to recall that the accusative implies that it is something you simply have in your memory, whereas actively remembering is denoted by the genitive.
    – gmvh
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 19:38
  • @gmvh: Death and its inevitability will be in everyone's memory/ mind. The expression seeks to stir it up a little. I was unaware of this difference.
    – tony
    Commented Nov 17, 2020 at 9:33

1 Answer 1

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Your translation is actually almost perfect. The only small issue is that autem "however" never stands first in its clause; it would be better replaced with sed or at, both of which mean "but".

The reason there are two infinitives in a row is that one way of expressing a negative command is noli plus infinitive, and in this case that infinitive "forget" then takes a further infinitive "live". If you want to avoid this, there are other ways of forming negative commands, such as ne plus subjunctive. This would give:

Memento mori, sed/at ne obliviscaris vivere.

This construction is a bit more poetic in tone, so might also be suitable for that reason. You could play with the word order in various ways, for example with chiasmus:

Memento mori, sed/at vivere ne obliviscaris.

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  • The requirement is "remember death"--blunt & chilling. The use of "memento mori" is long-winded: "remember-that-you-are-mortal" and has a lesser impact. Do you agree?
    – tony
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 10:21
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    @tony It works best with two parallel structures, so I'd say it should be either mori&vivere or mors&vita. Perhaps the verbs are somewhat more active. The phrase memento mori doesn't have a perfect English counterpart; both "remember death" and "remember that you are mortal" work. It's indeed blunt in Latin.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 11:50
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    @tony It's only the English translation that's long-winded; memento mori is slightly shorter than memento mortis, for whatever that's worth.
    – TKR
    Commented Nov 16, 2020 at 22:08
  • The carpe diem poem en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carpe_diem has it all, in a personal form. The memento mori comes as a brutal Roman ritual during the triumphal processions and has no connection to the Epicurean motto.
    – Roland F
    Commented Jan 4 at 15:23

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