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The refrain of the Maroon 5's song "This Love" contains the verse "She said goodbye too many times before.". How would you translate that verse into Latin? My attempt would be "Ea dixit 'Vale!' plurimis temporibus abhinc.", but I am not sure that's correct.

2 Answers 2

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That translation strikes me as overly literal, trying to keep a match for each English word. I'd go more idiomatic with this.

For example, unless it's important to emphasize the "she", I would leave out the pronoun and let the verb's ending handle it. Similarly, I wouldn't use a word for "before". I would use either the perfect tense (if the intention is "before now") or the pluperfect (for "before then") and let the aspect of the verb carry that information.

There's actually a single Latin verb for "say goodbye", though it's very similar to your phrasing! Valedīcō, valedīcere, the ancestor of English "valedictorian" (the person who gives the farewell speech).

Finally, for "too many times", two phrasings come to mind. Totiēns means "so many times", emphasizing the repetition, while nimium (or its variants, there are plenty) means "too much", emphasizing the excess. I'm not aware of any phrase that emphasizes both the repeated action and the excess of it at the same time, like English "too many times" does.

So I would cut this down to something like nimium valedīxit or totiēns valedīxit: "she bade farewell too much before" or "she bade farewell so many times before".

(Of course, since this is a matter of style, others can and will disagree completely. Literalism in translation isn't necessarily a bad thing just because I dislike it stylistically.)

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  • Nimium valedixit omits the subject but I think it's a relevant part of the original phrase - we are talking about "she". So perhaps illa nimium valedixit is more accurate? Or if not, can you perhaps expand to explain why we would omit the subject?
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 6, 2023 at 12:35
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    @Sklivvz it's not uncommon to omit words if they can be inferred from the sentence (ie through verbs). Saves valuable chisel time.
    – Oli
    Sep 6, 2023 at 12:47
  • @Sklivvz Latin is what's called a "pro-drop" language, meaning that subject pronouns usually aren't written. The ending of the verb indicates who's doing the action instead. Including a pronoun for the subject puts a lot of emphasis on it: "she was the one who said goodbye".
    – Draconis
    Sep 6, 2023 at 15:29
  • I know a little bit of Latin, I know you can drop the subject, but that's understood. However, the sentence as you wrote equally applies to both genders. The original English one only applies to a person with feminine pronouns.
    – Sklivvz
    Sep 6, 2023 at 17:58
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    @Sklivvz Ah, but if the context refers to this person enough to make it clear who "she" is, it should also make it clear who "he/she/it/they" is. I don't know the song, but I doubt losing the gender marking will actually create any ambiguity; imo, adding an emphatic illa changes the meaning significantly more.
    – Draconis
    Sep 6, 2023 at 18:04
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Cicero provides a possibility for "too many times" with nimium saepe:

Quare "bene et praeclare" quamvis nobis saepe dicatur; "belle et festive" nimium saepe nolo (Cicero, De Oratore 3.101.2)

I think the meaning is even clearer with Seneca's Medea:

Quodsi nimium saepe vocari quereris votis, ignosce, precor:
But if you protest at too frequent a summons from my entreaties, forgive me, I pray:

Cicero uses nimium joined with saepe often, perhaps too often, since it's rarely found in other others (once in Seneca, the above passage, and I think twice in Ovid, but I haven't translated the passages in full to see if they belong together or if nimium goes with another word).

You could also easily just use the comparative or superlative forms of saepe, which would get the point across. In searching the Loeb library, I found several translators who have done that, so it's not just my intuition.

While Draconis is right that you don't need to translate "she", you might consider it if you want to single the subject out. For this, you could use illa, "that woman." For this particular sense of illa, see Lewis & Short:

C. Opp. to hic, to indicate that object which is the more remote, either as regards the position of the word denoting it, or as it is conceived of by the writer; v. hic, I. D.—

So saying illa valedixit would have the same sense as the English "that woman."

I really only bring this up because the previous line has (and the song is called) "this love," so it provides a nice contrast: hic amor, illa mulier.

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  • My only nitpick is that I wouldn't use that Catullus line as an example, since it's a fairly faithful translation of a Greek poem that uses a pronoun there. (I do think illa is potentially a good choice here though.)
    – Draconis
    Sep 5, 2023 at 0:42
  • @Draconis Yes, very true, but it was the first thing that came to mind. If I think of a better example, I'll swap it out.
    – cmw
    Sep 5, 2023 at 2:12
  • While the discussion of how to translate parts of the sentence is very interesting, to properly answer the question, the final sentence combining those parts really should be in it. Illa nimium saepe valedixit, then?
    – KRyan
    Sep 5, 2023 at 23:54
  • I don’t really think the contrast works in this particular context. There isn’t an actual contrast between ‘this love’ and ‘she’ in the English (along with the person singing, ‘she’ is the other half of ‘this love’, after all). Going a bit freer, I think I would leave out illa, but add in the object, which is implicit in the English original, and instead saying mihi nimium valedixit, or perhaps even a me totiens abiit (‘she has left/abandoned me so many times’). Sep 6, 2023 at 1:34
  • @JanusBahsJacquet You are free to write your own answer.
    – cmw
    Sep 6, 2023 at 2:51

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