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I am analysing conflicting software requirements and I tried to apply lex specialis and lex posterior principles, but then I understood that the "the customer is always right" is the main principle. My question is - how to come up with the catchy Latin phrase for such "lex"? Google translate gives "in elit semper ius", but Google Search finds nothing suitable for such phrase. That may mean that the Google translation is not the best suggestion.

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    “In elit semper ius” is so alien (from Latin) that it's even difficult to understand how a software might have obtained it (apart for “right” misinterpreted as a noun). “Romanes eunt domus” was Cicero at his best, in comparison.
    – DaG
    Jun 16 at 23:14
  • Emptor rex est? ;-) Jun 17 at 0:52
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    @DaG It seems to believe that elit means 'movie' (which appears to be in a few online dictionaries that have no doubt been automatically generated), but it starts to use it here once you get past 'the customer is'. Initially it gives Lorem " (including the quotation mark) for just 'the customer'. semper ius for 'is always right' seems more understandable to me if you think of 'right' like a legal right, with omission of 'est' because it's imitating the style of a motto. [...]
    – dbmag9
    Jun 17 at 11:09
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    [...] I think this is a case of an AI model that has seen instances of lorem ipsum filler text next to generic English sentences and thought that one was a translation of the other. elit comes up there and perhaps English filler texts sometimes mention movies or customers. Genuine Latin/English translated texts presumably use the word 'customer' so rarely that it hasn't learned the correct word.
    – dbmag9
    Jun 17 at 11:13
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    @dbmag9: Nice analysis! The ius/right part was the only one I had guessed.
    – DaG
    Jun 17 at 12:43

3 Answers 3

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There's a maxim in Black's Law Dictionary: rex non potest peccare (the king can do no wrong).

This is easily adapted by substituting emptor (buyer) for rex (king):

Emptor non potest peccare.

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You could use "emptor" for "customer".

emptor (emt-), ōris, m. [emo], a buyer, purchaser (Lewis & Short)

For the "is always right" part, I would suggest the idiom "bene dicit". I think you could leave the "always" ("semper") out in Latin.

So "emptor bene dicit" (literally "the buyer speaks well") seems a reasonable translation to me.

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The English "The customer is always right" is a sardonic concession: we do not, of course, really think that the customer is always right, but we have to pretend they are, because the rules say we are not to argue with the customer, but to do their bidding. It is not easy to create a succinct Latin expression that captures the irony well.

Therefore I would rather suggest:

Cum emptore non est concertandum.
One must not debate with the customer.

For emptor, see Laravel's answer. The temptation is great to say ... non est disputandum, in order to evoke the famous De gustibus non est disputandum, but in truth disputare, in Classical Latin at least, means to examine, treat of something, not to have an argument, so I chose concertare instead.

An alternative option would be:

Emptor semper vincit.
The customer always wins.

If you want, you can also say Semper vincit emptor, thus alluding to Omnia vincit amor (Love conquers all), which is a famous line from Vergil. By the way, we are used to thinking of vincere in a military sense (as in Veni, vidi, vici), but in truth it often simply means "prevail, outweigh," etc., so it is quite a good fit on its own.

And finally, an attempt to capture the irony/sarcasm of the English original:

Quidquid poscit emptor, id vere videlicet atque iure poscitur.
Whatever the customer demands, that is obviously demanded rightly and justly.

Videlicet means "obviously," and like its English equivalent is sometimes used ironically.

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    Was this phrase originally sarcastic?
    – cmw
    Jun 17 at 0:46
  • I'm sure the Romans were capable of understanding irony, and FWIW I don't think the phrase in English is necessarily more ironic than any translation would be. It's only ironic in certain contexts and I think the same would be true in any language. The above answer about "the king can do no wrong" similarly seems like it can be taken ironically much of the time. The final part of this answer, "Whatever the customer demands, that is obviously demanded rightly and justly" is way more over-the-top than the English phrase.
    – Darren
    Jun 17 at 12:57
  • I like Sebastian’s version but perhaps might modify it and write ‘quidquid poscit emptor, iure/recte poscit’. If we prefer something briefer why not say numquam fallitur emptor? The heroic clausula of fallitur emptor can add to the tone of mockery and indeed indicate humour, irony or sardonicism. Jun 18 at 8:42
  • @JonathanHadfield Kingshorsey's answer got me to the idea Emptor non errat. Strange how I did not think of that; in any event, the OP cannot complain about a lack of options... Jun 19 at 9:27

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