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I would like to translate the following into Latin:

When a hen begs you to pick her up, you pick her up.

Here's my attempt:

Gallina tollenda, quae tolli rogat.

Is there a better way to express that? Thanks!

(For the record: I don't have any chickens. This is just a comment that a certain woman made to her husband, and I thought it was funny.)

4
  • Laetor neminem contextum rogavisse.
    – Ben Kovitz
    Mar 29 at 22:48
  • 2
    @BenKovitz Forsitan sit bipes implumis.
    – TKR
    Mar 30 at 3:55
  • 2
    Sententia alata: Verba volant, gallina manet.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Mar 30 at 9:50
  • @Joonas llmavirta; sub malis avibus = under the influence of evil; sub bonis gallinis = under good hens.
    – tony
    Mar 30 at 15:23
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Here is one expression in hexameter:

Si qua roget gallina leves, est illa levanda.
Should any hen ask you to lift, it must be lifted.

You never asked for a metric expression, but I was unable to resist.

I assumed "you" is not a specific person, so I went with a general conditional. Such a condition is often expressed by the conjunctive in Latin, whence roget instead of rogat (as I had in my original version).

In general, I think statements like this are best made with si quis/qua/quid and a general conditional. The pronoun aliquis often drops the ali- after si. The pronoun quă is a uniquely light word.

In metric poetry I don't have the luxury of clarity like in prose, so slight ambiguity remains. My "it" is a feminine singular, so without further context it must be the hen, and the object of leves is clear enough. It may be technically ambiguous, it is practically clear, just like in English where the two instances of "her" could technically refer to different things. I did contemplate a passive along the lines of si qua velit/roget gallina levetur… but I did not find a way to finish within one line, at least not as nicely.

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  • llmavirta: "Should any hen ask you to lift her(self), she must be lifted." Small things, but don't spoil the ship for a ha'peth of tar. The hen could've been asking you to lift the Empire State Building; unlikely, but you never know.
    – tony
    Mar 29 at 12:29
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    @BenKovitz Isn't it just aliqua, which drops the ali- after si?
    – cmw
    Mar 29 at 23:21
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    @tony I don't know what "Joonas's ESB" refers to; you brought it up. I think it is common in Latin to leave things up to context, and I don't think I would have actually inserted an explicit object even in prose. I assumed no further context (if there is any relevant context, it should be supplied in the question, but I don't think there was this time), so while it may be technically ambiguous, it is practically clear. It's the same in English: nothing guarantees that the two "her"s are the same. If I need to resolve this tiny ambiguity, my preferred method is the passive.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Mar 30 at 9:26
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    @tony I remember that, I was only asking about the possession. I was just pointing out that the building was yours, not mine.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Mar 30 at 9:30
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    @JoonasIlmavirta Thanks for your answer! Apr 3 at 9:55
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From my admittedly inexperienced and semi-educated perspective,

Gallina tollenda, quae tolli rogat.

is excellent. It's clear and snappy. Ending on rogat concisely suggests what the English version suggests: that the hen's wishes are paramount. The English "you pick her up" means "it's just in the nature of things that you must pick her up; do not question it"—and this also fits Gallina tollenda. Perhaps rogat lacks the notion of begging, but I think precatur or orat would go overboard; those words would weaken the undertone that the hen is to be obeyed unquestioningly.

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I'm thinking a future less conditional here with the imperative substituted for the apodosis:

Tolle, si qua gallina tolli desideret.

Pick her up, should any hen desire to be picked up.

I chose desidero as I'm interpreting the hen here as more than merely asking, but also wanting. In that, velle or desiderare are better choices.

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