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What Latin I know I've sort-of assimilated from being fluent in Spanish and having some knowledge of French, as well as a life-long interest in English etymology (not a strong foundation for Latin, I know :-)

I'm trying to come up with a succinct translation of the English phrase

[It] tastes like chicken

Clearly the dog-latin used on 509th Bomb Wing Insignia

Gustatus similis pullus

is likely incorrect, and the best I've been able to do after some research on the web (NOT Google Translate) is

Gustat similis pullum

Since "Gustare" is first conjugation, third person singular (he/it) would be "Gustat". However, I don't know if "gustare" is even the right verb here. In English we overload "taste" with both a transitive sense (to perform an action towards an object that results in a sensation of flavor of that object) and one that I guess is idiomatic and intransitive meaning "to have the flavor of". I have no idea if "gustare" can have both meanings or only the first. Maybe "gustat similis pullum" means "he tastes things the way a chicken would"?

"similis" seems like it might be appropriate, would "par" be better?

"pullum" (accusative) seems to be what is called for here, but again, I'm not sure.

Is there a better way to express this?

2 Answers 2

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Gusto/gustare means to taste, but in the sense of someone having a taste of something.

The verb you are looking for, IMO is sapio/sapire. It can be accompanied by a noun in the accusative case to mean to taste like something. (Piscis saperet ipsum mare being an example).

Note that this like is somewhat idiomatic in English. You can translate it literally to other languages and it will most probably be understood, but it is not necessarily the most natural way to say it (take, for example, Spanish sabe a pollo). Anyway, if you want to force it, I'd suggest ut—an adverb—rather than par or similis—which are adjectives.

Now pullus means chicken, but it's a pretty ambiguous word, meaning also foal or even any young animal. In the context of eating, though, it is indeed less ambiguous, but anyway you may want to disambiguate by saying pullus gallinae (a hen's young offspring) or even gallina (since until before the Industrial Revolution it was common to eat hen as well as chicken).

All said, my recommendation would be:

Pullum sapit (or with the alternative word order sapit pullum).

Pullum is in fact the accusative of pullus, the accusatives of the alternatives I offered are pullum gallinae sapit and gallinam sapit.

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    Darn, I should have trusted my Spanish roots more... :-) Thank you! Commented Jun 17, 2018 at 5:48
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The word gusto means to taste, not to have taste. Although sapio usually has a more intellectual rather than visceral sense, it is occasionally used to indicate flavor.

The verb regularly meaning to have taste or flavor is resipio:

murram radice resipit (...the root has the taste of myrrh) Pliny

Notice the re- in the word. Romans had the idea of taste being returned to the eater. So, for example, there is the idiom vim reddit (returns the force of...) to suggest that something has a particular taste or flavor. Also, it is common to use expressions like the following:

panax piperis saporem reddit (All-heal has ("returns") the taste of pepper) Pliny

In many cases the obscure verb resipio is not used, but simply the noun for flavor, which is sapor. Hence:

utriusque radix mulsei saporis est. (The root of each has the taste of honey wine.) Pliny

Idaea rubet olivae magnitudine, rotundior tantum, sapore mespili. ([The figs of] Mt. Idea are red, the size of an olive, only more round, and in taste are like the medlar.) Pliny

Concerning chickens, the word pullus, which literally means the young of an animal, is often used casually to mean chicken, especially as a menu item. Sometimes, an adjective will be used pullus gallinaceus to make it absolutely clear that we are talking about a young chicken. In more formal context, or to suggest a larger sized bird the word gallina is used. In the question, the desired expression is colloquial, so we are fine using pullus:

pullum resipit (it tastes like chicken)

pulli saporis est (tastes like chicken)

In this last example, modelled on the honey wine example above, I am not sure what kind of genitive this might be called.

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    Good answer (+1). I disagree with the implication that sapio isn't appropriate, though: the intellectual sense comes from the "gustatory" sense. I think pullum sapit and resipit are equally appropriate.
    – brianpck
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 12:41
  • @brianpck Can you find an example where sapit refers to the flavor of a food item? When I see sapit used in practice, it is almost invariably used in an intellectual context. Even in rare cases where it means to taste food, the cases I have seen are all transitive. Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 14:25
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    Here's one example from Pliny: "...cum in Hispaniā multa mella herbam eam sapiunt,”
    – brianpck
    Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 16:11
  • @brianpck Ok, I see that. I have updated my answer. Commented Oct 19, 2022 at 16:43

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