I am trying to translate the sentence "Can you give me a piece of cake please?" into Latin for a short story I am writing. I came up with the translation "Da mihi, quaeso, tortae portionem" (Give me, please, a piece of cake), but I am not sure if this is correct or natural. Can anyone provide feedback or suggestions for other possible translations?
The general structure looks fine to me. Instead of quaeso, you could also say amabo. See this thorough article on "How to ask politely in Latin."
What I would take issue with are your word choices:
- torta is a Latin word (a form of the verb torquere), but it does not mean "cake." The typical word for "cake" is placenta.
- portio does not really mean "piece," it is more like someone's share or allotment. Here I would suggest frustum (piece, bit), which is commonly used of food; alternatively you could also say fragmentum (if broken off the cake) or segmentum (if cut off).
So you might say:
Da mihi, quaeso, frustum placentae.
I'd be fine with torta in a context like this; modern cakes are sufficiently different from ancient Roman placentae that a loanword from Spanish would make sense.– Draconis ♦Dec 12, 2022 at 20:14
@Sebastian Koppehel: Here, "da mihi" = "give (to) me" & "quaeso" = "I ask (for)", why use both? Is there a role for "sodes" ["si audes" = "if you dare/ venture"] = please? In films Roman soldiers and politicians are often portrayed as terse, peremptory or just plain rude. The media are not to be automatically believed but these traits tally with the attitudes of (some) exponents of power, in an autocracy. Would "please" & "thank you" have had much currency in the Roman world?– tonyDec 15, 2022 at 9:59
@tony Quaeso is a set phrase to mark a polite question and is not otherwise connected to the sentence (as the commas suggest). I believe sodes can be used in a similar way. The Romans certainly could ask politely if they had to, not least because very few of them were actually particularly powerful. Dec 15, 2022 at 20:39
@tony But if you read Cicero's letters, you can see that even the senatorial class had ample occasion for genial and deferential language to cultivate friendships and political alliances. By the way, liber X of Pliny's letters contains numerous responses from emperor Trajan. See for yourself how the most powerful man in the world talked to a particularly inept provincial legate, a.k.a. mi Secunde carissime ;-) Dec 15, 2022 at 20:58