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When something "bad" happens to someone, a comforting message from another person my be "Look at the bright side: (at least) ...", then describing something positive that this "bad-event" brought with him. like:

We had an accident, but look on the bright side - no one was badly hurt.

I wonder how to convey this sense in Latin. We can briefly say at least or saltem (I believe) in Latin, but it less colorful, and I believe a similar phrase can be found in Latin.

The expression that came to mind is specta partem bonam, which sounds (to me at least) reasonable, but it becoming less attractive the deeper I look; for, first, I could not attest it, and second, in bonam partem accipere seems to be quite an idiomatic expression which like the Englsih "to take in good part" means "to not become too angry or upset about something" (M. Webster), so it feels in bonam parter spectare might mean something quite similar like "consider/regard this as not bad", which is not the sense we are looking for, which is rather more along the lines of "it is not good, but at least we can see some good angles in it". Moreover, according to L&S, bona pars might mean "for the great part" (DRN: inde bonam partem in lectum maerore dabantur.).

So maybe not pars, not bonus nor even specto are THE words to use here.

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    Excellent question. I feel there must be, if not a standing expression, then at least some example to adopt, be it in a comedy, in a letter, or elsewhere. Sep 11, 2021 at 16:45

3 Answers 3

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bona pars used on its own indeed means "a great part", and in bonam partem (accipere, interpretārī) has the meaning as you describe; therefore the Latin expression doesn't suit us even though the same metaphor (using words for "flank") is used in several Romance languages and is comprehensible if unidiomatic in Russian. I can think of a number of expressions that do work, however.

  • First of all, the actual meaning of the phrase is an encouragement to be positive, and a good and common way to express this in Latin is bonō animō estō! (quod nēmō vulnerātus est!). Of course this implies that otherwise the addressee either was despairing or was about to, but it suits your example.
  • Alternatively, we can rephrase this as "everything turned out (relativelly) well" (which I discuss in this answer). This gives us a number of literal expressions such as sed prosperē/fēlīciter ēvēnit, bene cessit/vertit quod... and sed rēs bene sē habuit et/atque nēmō..., or the actor-centered salvī ēvāsimus.
  • Then there are expressions meaning "it is well" that can take a complement clause: bene habēt/est quod nēmō/nēminem...
  • gaudendum est quod... "we should be happy that";
  • Generic comforting expressions such as sine cūrā sīs, aliud cūrā, nē tē cruciēris;
  • Or expressions of assurance such as ...sed omnia rēctē and salva rēs est (the latter is strongly positive).
  • Finally we can go for an antonymic translation: ...sed nihil malī accidit (et nēmō vulnerātus est).
  • Or for expressions of religious praise: (est) dīs grātia (cum). After all their function is likewise to reaffirm that even in bad circumstances there were good forces at play.
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    I eagerly await your translation of "Mr. Brightside" Mar 13, 2022 at 15:54
  • @Kingshorsey Haha! Oh man, I love the entirety of that album! Mar 13, 2022 at 15:55
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    Do you think some construction with "boni consulere" would work? Apr 22, 2022 at 17:03
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    @Kingshorsey What do you know! I'm reading its example usages now like I've never seen it before; I'm almost sure I ended up confusing it with sibi cōnsulere recently - I'll call this active unlearning. Anyway, it seems to mean 'to receive favourably, to keep some good deed in mind'. R.M. Gummere translates the imp. bonī cōnsule in Seneca as 'put it to my credit', and R.A. Kaster as 'count it as a bonus' in Macrobius. Then there's aequī bonīque faciō 'I'm cool with that'.—So unless I've missed something it's just out of our semantic range; still, seriously appreciate you mentioning it Apr 22, 2022 at 19:15
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    @Kingshorsey I think this is the same use as I mention, where the author expresses hope that their work will be received kindly, perhaps by overlooking its flaws. The antonym is reprehendere, vituperāre. What would be needed here is some intuitively undesirable situation being interpreted by either an onlooker or a participant, so that nothing is received and no recognition of merit is involved. Apr 22, 2022 at 20:32
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At least in your example*, 'look on the bright side' is a more positive way of expressing something like, 'still, it could have been worse' or 'still, it would have been worse if….'

With that in mind, another approach (supplementing Unbrutal_Russian's excellent list) would be to use something like (quanto) peius tamen [fuisset] si + pluperfect subjunctive – e.g.:

calamitas quidem nobis incidit; quanto tamen peius [fuisset] si quis gravissime vulneratus esset.

True, an accident befell us; still, how much worse [it would have been] if someone had been seriously wounded.

* Though not, e.g., in the exhortation 'Always look on the bright side of life' from Monty Python's Life of Brian.

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Two words for side come to mind: latus and facies. But I'm not sure which one best covers it. And instead of an imperative you could use a gerundive. With conspicio as the verb, you get:

  • Latus clarum conspiciendum
  • Facies clara conspicienda
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    Thanks! I wasn't thinking of using the gerundive, I actually like prefer it over the imperative now. I'm not sure though clarus is quite accurate choice here - since the "bright" in the English phrase is rather in the sense of 'good'/'positive' and less 'clear'/'distinguishable'; also have my doubt of latus which scanning L&S pertains more for a literal side, and less to "face/respect/angle". If you could find some usages examples for those terms and others in your answer, it would be fantastic.
    – d_e
    Sep 10, 2021 at 21:14
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    This is a good literal translation of the English idiom, but do you have any examples of this being used by a Latin-speaker? (French and Spanish, for instance, tend to speak of the "good" side of things rather than the "bright" side of things.)
    – brianpck
    Sep 11, 2021 at 18:27
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    Translated back these mean "the well-visible flank must come into view", which I'm afraid has nothing to do with the question. Feb 8, 2022 at 17:01

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