"Ita in vita ut in lusu alae pessima jactura arte corrigenda est"

In the text of Moonfleet by Meade Falkner, this phrase is translated to mean

"As in life, so in a game of hazard, skill will make something of the worst of throws".

My question is, should "alae" be more correctly written as "aleam"?

I am seeking to have the motto engraved and considering whether to use the authentic words from the book as written or use a corrected version of the text

  • 7
    There is, at any rate, a typo in the original as you've given it: alae ('wing') should be aleae ('game of chance', 'die'). Can you explain why you think the accusative form aleam is more correct than the genitive form al(e)ae?
    – cnread
    Aug 9, 2023 at 16:01

1 Answer 1


The version in lusu alae is quite widespread on the Internet, but it is obviously incorrect (as cnread writes in a comment, that would be a form of ala, “wing”) and not authentic. In Meade Falkner's novel, it says:

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Ita in vita ut in lusu aleæ pessima jactura arte corrigenda est.

And that is perfectly correct. Lusus aleae means “the game of dice,” or a game of hazard in general. It is somewhat redundant, as alea by itself (without the lusus) already means as much, but it is attested. You could also write: Ita in vita ut in alea pessima jactura &c.

Aleam is wrong, and I have no idea why it seems right to you. One can say ludere aleam, but it does not follow that you can say lusus aleam, verbal nouns do not work that way.

You did not ask, but I would add that the quote, in my opinion, does not exactly have the meaning ascribed to it. It means: “In life as in a game of hazard, a really bad throw must be corrected by skill (or skillfully).”

(I particularly stress the mistranslation of corrigenda, but also, first writing in Latin: Ita in vita ut in lusu aleae; and then translating this as: As in life, so in a game of hazard, as if the quote wanted to give advice to dice players, seems quite strange.)

  • 1
    "skill will make something of the worst throws" is loosely translated, but contains the same idea. It just doesn't express it in obligation, but possibility. (But I agree with the rest and of course +1.)
    – cmw
    Aug 9, 2023 at 20:20
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    @cmw To be sure, but it is a bit like saying: Cato periodically reminded the Romans that Carthage could be defeated ;-) Aug 9, 2023 at 21:52
  • Ha, I see. Fair point!
    – cmw
    Aug 9, 2023 at 21:53
  • Indeed, re: corrigenda. Perhaps you should use "shall" instead of "will" to convey the sense of obligation -- if anyone makes that distinction anymore. "Must" would be clearer. As it stands, it's not a loose but a a mistranslation. Aug 19, 2023 at 14:59

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