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The motto for Concordia University Saint Paul (MN) reads: "In litteris proficere volo, malo diligere Jesum."

The CSP website, magazine (Spring 2009), and various internet sources offer these translations—some literal and some interpretive:

  • I wish to be proficient in academics, but even more I wish to know Jesus.

  • It is good to pursue knowledge, better to know Jesus.

  • Will Prosper in Academics and Be Diligent in Christ.

And even this interesting adaptation:

  • Lord, give us joy in education especially knowing the love of Christ.

I'm having a hard time fitting "malo" into this, because everything I've found or learned relates it to bad or evil. I've tried my Cassell's, and the Latin Dictionary.

Is there a comparative or superlative at work (or play) here, that I am not comprehending?

Any insight would be much appreciated! Thank you in advance.

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malo here is the first-person singular active indicative form of malle, which means “I prefer”. It has nothing to do with either malus “bad” (or, for that matter, malum “apple”). I believe that the verb is a contraction of maius “better” and velle “to want”.

EDIT: Lewis & Short says that it's actually from magis "more" + velle.

  • Thank you, NRitH, for your answer. Please see disclaimer in my comment above. However, I wanted to let you know that I learned something else (beyond my momentary myopia when attempting a search this arvo) interesting from your post, namely the idea of the "contraction of maius 'better' and velle 'to want'" that I had not considered. Cheers! – Verbiwhore Oct 22 '18 at 1:59
  • I'm confused by the rollback of the edit--any particular reason you want it to stand this way? – brianpck Jun 25 at 20:10
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To add to this, there's an old mnemonic rhyme for the word malo:

Mālō, I would rather be
Mālō, in an apple tree
Mālō, than a ship at sea
Mălō, in adversity

It's a confusingly ambiguous word! In the first line, it's a form of mālle, "to want"; in the second line, it's the ablative of position of mālus, "apple tree"; in the third line, it's the ablative of comparison of mālus, "upright beam, post, mast" (or "ship" by synecdoche); in the fourth line, it's the masculine ablative of mălus, "bad". The fourth of these is the only one that looks any different, since it has a short ă rather than a long ā.

  • This is wonderful! – NRitH Oct 22 '18 at 22:34
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    What a fascinating word pond! Charmed I am to be / sprouting cognitively / at sea in synecdoche / enlightened incredulity! – Verbiwhore Oct 24 '18 at 1:31

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