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Ignoring the technological shock that would likely happen from seeing a computer and the internet, what would Cicero or Caesar call the "Latin Language Stack Exchange" website? While I would imagine there is a Neo Latin word for "website" is there one for "Stack Exchange"?

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    "Web site" has pretty common term in contemporary Latin: situs interretialis
    – Ben Kovitz
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 11:03
  • I guess that might make us Situs Interretialis Linguae Latinae.
    – Adam
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 11:27
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    @Adam That'd be "The Latin language website". Our site is not the only thing that could be described so. Describing pros and cons of different suggestions is what I'm mostly looking forward to here.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 11:36
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    Idea: stackexchange comes from a computer's memory stack, which takes its name from its analogy in structure/functioning to a stack/pile, hence strues could be a good word for the stack part (though maybe too unspecific?). Something in the line of strue commutatio?
    – Rafael
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 12:22

3 Answers 3

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Angles of approach

There seem to be a couple of overall options here:

  1. Try to translate literally with all the technical vocabulary.

    I agree with the answer by Unbrutal Russian: the translation task is impossible. See his answer for details on the various difficulties of a translation. While perhaps "technically correct", this will lead to something practically unintelligible.

    This is just as good as coming up with an entirely new Latin name. It might be fun and all, but it will not communicate well.

    Trying to translate literally is a fun game and I would enjoy seeing suggestions. But I doubt that any such translation could be of much use, unfortunately.

  2. Leave the name untranslated.

    This can be done on several levels:

    • "Latin language Stack Exchange"
    • "Lingua Latina Stack Exchange"
    • "Stack Exchange linguae Latinae"
    • "Situs Latinus apud Stack Exchange"

    There are options for the wording; my point is only to give pointers to an approach here. An untranslated name, especially the completely untouched first item on my list, has the obvious benefit of searchability. If someone reads an article in Latin about this site and wants to search for more information, that's what they should be using.

  3. Produce context and switch.

    If you have a longer text or speech or other piece of Latin, you can start with an untranslated version of the name. You can mention that you will be using a different, more Latinized name from there on.

    This is something that the Finnish Nuntii Latini sometimes did with names of people: on first mention the name was in its typical form, and subsequent mentions would be in Latinized forms. For example, I might be introduced as Joonas but later referred to as Ionas. Connecting the dots is often easy enough.

    The new version you switch to can be a slightly translated version from point 2 or a fuller translation following point 1. There are several ways to go with this, but this is a strategy worth keeping in mind. The usefulness of this approach depends greatly on the length of the Latin piece you are composing.

Suggestion

One point worth considering is other languages. For example, nobody in Finland would try to translate "Stack Exchange" even though we are better equipped for technical terminology than Latin. It is a brand name and known globally as such, and we leave it untouched. I think others do the same, using words like "site" to make it easy to use in the needed syntactical roles. (In Latin this would mean making case inflection visible, which is not possible with the first option from point 2 above.) Therefore my suggestion is to at least keep the "Stack Exchange" bit untouched and do something along the lines of points 2 or 3 in my list above.

I like Latin used as a living language, but that need not entail forcing all elements into a Latin mold. All languages loan things, especially names, from others. Latin should be no different — but I know full well that different people have different ideas of how Latin ought to be used.

I have no strong opinion on an exact final wording, and the best choice is likely to depend on context.

Related reading

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    @Unbrutal_Russian It appears that situs has a firm foothold in contemporary Latin as a translation of "(web)site". Such tradition, albeit far more modern than classical Latin, is not to be ignored, nor is analogy to other languages. If Latin words are to be used for modern concepts, they have to be adapted; they cannot be wholly faithful to their older meanings. This happens in all languages as new technology replaces old and old words are repurposed for new uses. From the point of view of an ancient Roman these new meanings might be nonsensical, but so might be our whole modern world.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 19:29
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    @Unbrutal_Russian Whether the classical meaning of situs is suitable for this use is not very important in my opinion. My point is that the word is well recognizable (by analogy to English and other languages) and well established (whether originally by mistake or not), and therefore it makes for good communication. My approach here is descriptive rather than prescriptive; I care more about how the word is actually used than what it should mean. That said, the leap from situs as geographical location to a website is not big at all. Sedes is a good word too, but not the only one.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 20:06
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    I don't think we'll reach agreement on this as we're clearly coming from very different directions. Therefore I suggest that we agree to disagree and move on, not least because the word situs is just a quick example and in no way essential to my answer.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 20:07
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    @Unbrutal_Russian You've failed to say why situs is a bad translation of website. You never actually explain your understanding of what a website actually is and why the English word "site" was chosen for it. Your objection is incoherent without that vital piece of information.
    – cmw
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 20:16
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    Moreover, it's dubious to object to one definition by means of a secondary development. Sanguineus can mean both "bloodthirsty" and just "red". We cannot exclude sanguineus as an appropriate translation for "red" just because it can mean "bloodthirsty."
    – cmw
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 20:21
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The name 'stackexchange' is a multilevel pun which rests on the existence of a large and complex set of programming terminology, followed by the creation of a website called 'stackoverflow' named after a type of programming error, whose successful question-answer format served as a model for a network of companion websites on non-programming topics; the name of that network is a combined pun on the original website's name, on the name of its competitor website, and on the word 'stock exchange.'

The necessary steps were something like this:

  • the invention of the term stack for an abstract data type where operations are only performed on the "topmost" element in a "stack". The metaphor is apparently taken from stacks of dishes in Western cafeteria.
  • the invention of a stack-based memory allocation, which is notable for limiting the space available to a program thread.
  • the invention of the term stack overflow, the name for an error that occurs when a thread attempts to write more data than its stack has space for.
  • the creation of the website stackoverflow.com which purported to help programmers to eliminate this type of memory access errors, among other things.
  • the creation of its companion websites with a scope beyond programming, intended as an alternative to experts-exchange.com. The name pays homage to the original by including 'stack', to the competitor by including 'exchange', and ends up being a pun on 'stock exchange', referencing the fact that the websites facilitate the exchange of knowledge using a virtual currency system.

I'm certain the programming part of my explanation can be further expanded by people who actually know something about programming, but hopefully this list still makes for a good example of why 'what-if', alternate history questions are widely seen as unanswerable. The name of this website is owed to a series of dependencies that are very cultually and historically specific, and it's positively impossible to model the outcome of such a sequence of events taking place in a Latin-speaking society that was culturally Roman.

I would reject any attempt to translate the name of this website into Latin for the same reason that speakers of modern languages would - it would be a self-absorbed exercise in alternative world-building that most people simply don't care for. They simply need to refer to an actually-existing website, and so they do it using its only actually existing name, which is English. With that in mind, I don't see a reason to presume that potential Latin-speaking time travellers from Ancient Rome would do anything different.

If pressed, I would say that the fundamental problem here is the fact that Latin has no programming terminology at all, let alone a terminology for abstract data types. Therefore anyone wishing to engage in such alt-history world-building first needs to elaborate a set of Latin terms and metaphors for that. And the problem with this, of course, is that such undertakings are usually done by people who treat Latin as a code for English, or even as a programming language, and attempt to literally translate the English terms and transplant onto Latin metaphors that are specific to the English language and the Anglophone (programming) culture. Therefore these attempts have little to do with real Latin.

But if, say, a group of polyglots spanning a range of sufficiently different cultures, who were fluent in Latin, and who have already faced the task of translating specialised English jargon into their native language, were to succeed in elaborating such terminology, they would still be faced with another difficult task - to come up with an appropriate pun. And even then the competitor website would still remain unreferenced.

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    I agree that it is better not to translate the name. But some languages didn't have computing terms and translated them. Spanish from Spain (not the Latin American dialects) translates many terms preserving the original metaphors. Indeed stack as a data structure is translated as pila.
    – Rafael
    Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 17:35
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    @Rafael The fact that direct translation is a possible way of adapting specialised (including computing) foreign-language terms in any language is not in question to anyone familiar with any foreign language. Russian computer jargon is full of translated terms that feel totally native.—What would not be acceptable, in any language, is inventing a translation for a term for which no translation is in use, for the sole purpose of coming up with literal translation of some random website's name. Such inside jokes are possible on a personal website, but never when aiming at a general audience Commented Apr 27, 2022 at 18:46
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I agree with Joonas and U_R that we needn't translate proper names, and the Romans sure didn't (most of the time). They did Latinize names, though, and that's something that can be done.

Stack is easy; Stacca is close enough.

Exchange is more difficult, as it has two sounds that Latin doesn't have: ch (tʃ) and soft g (dʒ). Neither Greek nor Hebrew had these sounds either, so I'm not sure if we have evidence of what they would look like in transliteration.

There's probably a Neo-Latin Latinization which would provide a late schema for the sounds, but in the interim, for antiquity, I'd tentatively posit Excentsa as an approximation of the sounds.

If it were read and used Latin letters, that would alter it further, and they would probably have done what we do: write it as it is, but pronounce it according to natural rules.

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