Fortasse accipio oratio stridens vestri. Sum Quintus Fabius centurio navis stellae "Malleus Jesu". Quid estis, quid agitis in hac provincia? Et quid est mixti lingua vestri?Germanicus est? Non dubito quin vos ex Germaniae Exteriorae. Cognovi de genus vestri prius. Bene? Quam respondebitis mihi?

The last paragraph from the book Proxima by Stephen Baxter – what an intriguing and infuriating ending for a book! It leaves you scrabbling around trying to figure out what's going on and struggling with google translator. There had been no Latin or Roman involvement until this point in the book. Any help appreciated. I know very little Latin.

This is a science fiction book and I have figure out that this is a centurion from the star ship? Malleus Jesu asking something about what people are doing there but I'm struggling...


4 Answers 4


This is garbled Latin that looks like the misguided effort of a first-year Latin student (or perhaps, more likely, Google Translate). The meaning (in outline) is clear to me as an English speaker:

Perhaps I accept your strident speech. I am Quintus Fabius, the centurion of the star ship "The Hammer of Jesus." What are you, what are you doing in this territory? And what is your mixed (?) language? Is it German? I don't doubt that you are from Outer Germany. I have heard of your people before. Well? What will you answer me?

The case agreements are almost completely wrong and many of the words (e.g. navis stellae, bene) are nonsensical calques of English idioms.

In short: it's embarrassing (but not utterly surprising) that this is in a published work, unless in context it is meant to be a parody.

  • I believe the author had someone supposidly knowledgeable in Latin provide him with the basics, although he did say he took responsibility for any errors himself (I suspect he altered it). Thanks for the translation, at least it was Latin enough to be translated and it makes a lot more sense now.
    – Slarty
    Commented Oct 19, 2017 at 18:15

I agree with the assessment that this is poorly imitated Latin, or perhaps a robotic translation from the web. I disagree that in an imaginary universe Latin could possibly have evolved to sound like that, but that's a speculative debate at best. I would vary the translation provided by Slarty slightly, to produce the following: "Let's say I buy what you just said. I am Quintus Fabius, commander of the starship 'Jesus's Hammer'. What are you, and what are you doing in these parts? And what language do you mixed lot speak? Is it German? No doubt you're from Outer Germany. I heard of your kind before. Well? Are you going to answer me?"

I have to stress here that to a Roman the Latin would just sound like gobbledygook - but to an English speaker who knows what individual Latin words mean, the patterns in the text along with the meaning of the words leads to more or less what I've come up with.

  • @Philppe Damerval - I sound point out that I did not provide any translation other thna copying the text from a book...
    – Slarty
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 18:38
  • @Slarty I believe Philippe refers to the translation provided by brianpck in an answer. Whatever the original text is, I agree that it is extremely likely to be a machine translation from English text.
    – Joonas Ilmavirta
    Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 7:10
  • I do apologize for misidentifying the author of the first translation. It was a newbie's faux pas. Slarty and Brianpck, I am sorry for my mistake. Commented Oct 24, 2017 at 19:20

It's probably supposed to be a version of Latin that has undergone a certain mutation over time.

This is, however, entirely a guess, I have not read the book (or books, if this is part of a series.)

I think the line is "I have heard your type of speech before."

English is a Germanic language, which is why double negatives should never be used, though they are common and normal in Latin-rooted languages.

  • I think that's a pretty charitable interpretation: it's obvious, though, that some effort was made to inflect, but that it failed, and in inconsistent ways.
    – brianpck
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 15:05
  • 2
    Could you explain your remark about double negatives? Not sure what you're referring to
    – brianpck
    Commented Oct 20, 2017 at 15:06
  • Sorry, Brian, one of my hangups creeping in. 3 most common mistakes in English:
    – Neil B.
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 11:31
  • Sorry, Brian, one of my hangups creeping in. You'll have to look them up, I started explaining and ran out of space. Wikipedia has lovely examples and a cartoon. In English, generally, double negatives are meaningless, ambiguous or contradict themselves. In music and poetry, they can be used for emphasis, but still may make sense: "Ain't no sunshine when she's gone" (Bill Withers) or no sense "There will never be no love at all." (Bob Marley)
    – Neil B.
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 11:53
  • I know what a double negative is: I just don't see a single use of it in this thread.
    – brianpck
    Commented Oct 23, 2017 at 12:21

Thanks for the very helpful translations! To finally solve the mystery for all concerned, this exact paragraph is translated by the author himself in Chapter 3 of the sequel to the book as follows:

I think I understand your guttural speech. I am Quintus Fabius, centurion of the star vessel Malleus Jesu. Who are you, and what are you doing in this province? And what is that mongrel tongue of yours? German, is it? From Outer Germania, no doubt. I’ve dealt with your sort before. Well? What have you got to say for yourselves?

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