6

In the odds and ends section of Ephemeris, a Latin news site, a recent article tells the story of a cat whose owner accidentally put him in the mail along with some DVDs. (Happily, Cupcake survived.)

The article contains the following sentence:

Iulia (Julie) Bagott, quae Falénsi Portú (Falmouth) in Angliá meridionali-occidentali habitat, digitálés versatílés disculós (DVD) in fascem cursuálem condébat sed, mirabile dictú, felem suam quae intus dormiébat non animadvertit.

Lewis Elementary offers this definition of condó:

  1. to put together, make by joining, found, establish, build, settle
  2. to erect, make, construct, build, found
  3. to compose, write, celebrate, treat, describe
  4. to establish, found, be the author of, produce, make
  5. to put away, lay by, lay up, store, treasure
  6. to preserve, pickle

My impulse, if I were writing the sentence, would be to say in fascem posuit (or perhaps deposuit or ínsévit), though none of those feels particularly felicitous.

Is the use of condó in the sentence in question correct and, if so, what does it mean? Is it an idiom? She obviously didn't put the cat together into a package, nor, one presumes, did she pickle him.

5

The fifth meaning indeed seems to be at play here. Though I normally think of condo in its primary sense of "build," I was able to infer the meaning even without looking at the dictionary by recalling the word recondo, which means more or less the same thing.

Contrary to Joonas's answer, I really have no problem with this usage and, after looking up several samples, think that it fits very well into the mold of classical examples. Here are some, taken from the Lewis & short entry for condo (meaning 2.A.1.b)

Examples where condere suggests "depositing with intent of withdrawal":

homo cruminam sibi de collo detrahit,
minas viginti mihi dat. accipio libens,
condo in cruminam. (Plaut. Truc. 3, 1, 9)

mustum in dolium condidit (Varr. R. R. 1, 65, 1)

Examples where condere simply means "putting inside something"

adiitque uenerabundus ac per semet [cineres] in urnas condidit (Suet. Calig. 15)

barbam primam posuit conditamque in auream pyxidem et pretiosissimis margaritis adornatam Capitolio consecrauit. (Suet. Ner. 12)

(note that here "barbam ponere" means to "shave his beard": it is then "conditam" in an "auream pyxidem.")

[piratas] produci atque in carcerem condi imperavit (Cic. Verr. 2, 5, 29, § 76)

These last three examples--particularly the example of committing ashes to an urn--correspond pretty exactly to the idea of putting DVDs in a parcel.

I think the usage is apt and corresponds to the impressively fluent Latin of the rest of the article.

3

Your fifth option is the way to go to interpret this phrase. (I do hope the sixth one was not intended!) I might use condere if I were to store something in a box or to deposit some money to my bank account. To me at least, this (fifth) meaning of condere comes with the idea that you store the thing for yourself.1 I want to be able to take my thing from the box or withdraw my money later on.

From this perspective the choice of verb is poor. When you put something in the mail box, you surely do not expect to find it there — or anywhere else, for that matter — later on. In this sentence I would simply use ponere. Also deponere or inserere might work, but they feel less suitable. The former puts more emphasis on giving something away, rather than just placing something somewhere, and it also can mean things like your fifth translation of condere. The latter is more appropriate, and preferring it or ponere is perhaps a matter of taste.

One more note: There are two verbs inserere. If you are planting a tree, insevit is the perfect tense. If you are inserting something, it is inseruit.


1 I would like to hear if others see this verb the same way.

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