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Exercises in Style (French: Exercices de style), written by Raymond Queneau, is a collection of 99 retellings of the same story, each in a different style.

This is the one I'm wondering about:

Sol erat in regionem zenithi et calor atmospheri magnissima. Senatus populusque parisiensis sudebant. Autobi passebant completi. In uno ex supradicti autobibus qui S denominationem portebat, hominem quasi junum, cum collo multi elongato et cum chapito a galono tressato cerclaro vidi.

I have the impression that it is quite correct Latin except from a few words at the end (junum, chapito, etc.) — the title indicates Macaronic Latin, i.e. a mixture with French.

Apart from that, how good is the Latin in this paragraph?

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  • Are you certain that you typed all the letters correctly? Because there are a lot of errors in here that could be typos. P.S. Don't 99 retellings of the same story get a bit boring?
    – Cerberus
    Jan 10 at 18:26
  • @Cerberus This is a copy and paste from the French Wikipedia page, I didn't check with a paper text. I find it more amusing than boring given the brevity of the story
    – user10593
    Jan 10 at 19:32
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    @Cerberus As the title suggests, there's nothing to learn from it, it's just a stylistic game. I must have a hard copy somewhere to check
    – user10593
    Jan 10 at 20:00
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    For the record, as an author Queneau was very "creative" in his usage of of the French language: made-up words, weird spelling, etc. He was a member of Oulipo, a literary approach in which playfulness and enjoyment are more important than grammatical and lexical accuracy. In this context it's not very surprising that he would have made a lot of mistakes in this Latin text... the question is whether he made them on purpose or not!
    – Erwan
    Jan 11 at 15:53
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    The point of the story is that French expressions have been literally translated into Latin, resulting in a sort of pseudo or "Dog Latin". A good "translation" of this story in e.g. English would use similar literal translations from English into Latin, creating an equally faulty - but convincing - Latin.
    – Jos
    Jan 11 at 15:55

2 Answers 2

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Not very.

Lexically, a lot of the words aren't Latin or aren't used with the meaning they had in (Classical) Latin: zenithi (French zénith < Medieval Latin cenit < Arabic samt (with the m being misread as ni) < Classical Latin sēmita 'path'), atmospheri (French atmosphère < New Latin atmosphaera from ἀτμός + σφαῖρα, not attested as a compound in Ancient Greek or Classical Latin), autobi and autobibus (French autobus, from automobile + omnibus, both clipped), passebant (French passer < Vulgar Latin *passare, not attested Classically), supradicti (the intended meaning is 'mentioned above/earlier', but as a variant of superdictus it actually means 'said in addition'; splitting off the supra would kind of fix it), junum (French jeune < Latin iuvenis), collo (French col 'collar' as opposed to Latin collum 'neck'), chapito (French chapeau with an Spanish-like diminutive, I guess), a (French à, should be another cum), galono (French galon 'braid') tressato (French tressé 'braided'; Latin would be plexo or similar), cerclaro (not sure what's intended there).

Grammatically, there are a number of issues as well: regionem should be in the ablative, not the accusative; magnissima should be maximus (irregular superlative, agreement with masculine calor); sudebant should be sudabant (sudo is in the first conjugation); passebant should be passabant (assuming reconstructed *passare, first conjugation); supra[ ]dicti should be supra dictis; autobibus should be autobis (second declension), or autobi should be autobus (fourth declension); portebat should be portabat (a trend); multi should be multum (the adverb).

It's possible I missed some. Of course, producing correct Latin wasn't really the point.
His use of autobi did remind me of Alfred Denis Godley's The Motor Bus, which did a better job of sticking to a declension.

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    Wow I missed a lot of things, thanks of lot for you detailed answer
    – user10593
    Jan 10 at 18:01
  • cerclaro is related to the braid which encircles the hat. Encercler in French.
    – Luc
    Jan 12 at 14:13
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Queneau’s exercise has the superscription “Macaronique”. It does not pretend to be classical Latin. It is a parody of a mixture of bad Latin and worse French.

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    Yes, and it is written in the question
    – user10593
    Jan 11 at 16:40

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