In Spanish there is a whole array of phrases of the type:

Me importa un comino.

where the word "comino" can be replaced by many alternatives (e.g. pito, pepino, bledo, etc). This phrase, in a more explicit way, can be stated as:

[algo/alguien] Me importa tanto como un comino.

The literal English translation of the latter would be

[something/somebody] It matters to me as much as a cumin.

The term added at the end of the phrase is usually something of very little importance or value. So, the phrase would be idiomatically equivalent (albeit not literally equivalent) to the English

I don't give a damn.

Now, I would like to translate the Spanish version into Latin. I've come to

[illud] intersum sicut cuminum

Is this correct? Is there a better translation? Just for the sake of it, how one would say the English equivalent? Non do ...? And finally, is there perhaps a native idiom in Latin to express this same thing?

  • 1
    Related phrase, but not really the same: VG Ioh 21:22: Si eum volo manere donec veniam, quid ad te? ¿Qué te importa? Perhaps quid ad me?
    – Rafael
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 16:44
  • Interestingly, in Italian we say non mi importa un fico secco di/se [of/if], where fico secco means literally "dried fig". Commented Dec 16, 2018 at 9:22

2 Answers 2


There's a whole range of expressions of the type (non) facio (or habeo, aestimo, etc.) + the genitive of some substantive, meaning 'I (don't) value as worth x.' (The genitive is a genitive of value.) The substantive can be something like parvi/magni, minimi/maximi, or tanti; or it can be some more concrete noun, like assis ('a small coin'), pili ('a hair'), or (my favorite) flocci ('a tuft of wool').

For example, from Plautus, Casina, lines 330–332 (Lysidamus speaking):

quid id refert tua?
unus tibi hic dum propitius sit Iuppiter,
tu istos minutos caue deos flocci feceris.

What does it matter to you? Provided that this Jupiter alone is favorable to you, see that you value those lesser gods as worth a tuft of wool.


In answer to your question, your translation, intersum sicut cuminum, doesn't work because the first-person form means 'I matter/make a difference,' not 'It matters/makes a difference to me.' You would have to use the third person interest instead. Then, to get a first person idea, you would add the feminine ablative singular of the possessive adjective: meā interest. (If the person/thing that something matters to isn't a personal pronoun, you would add the genitive of the noun – e.g., Ciceronis interest, 'It matters to Cicero.')

The third person of refero works the same way and means the same thing, as in the first line of the quotation from the Casina; so you can also say meā refert (or Ciceronis refert).

Most commonly, interest and refert are accompanied by adverbs (including adverbial accusatives) to express the extent to which something matters/makes a difference – e.g., nihil/nil/nihilum, parum, multum, permultum, magis, maximum/maxime, plus, plurimum, quantum, tantum, quantulum, nimium, pernimium, quid, nonnihil, aliquid, ecquid, numquid, minimum, or haud.

A genitive of value can also be used. However, in all the examples I found, the genitive was something like magni, permagni, parvi, quanti, or pluris, never a concrete noun. This is not to say that a concrete noun such as cumini can't be used (mea cumini interest, 'It makes a cumin seed's worth of difference to me'); as always, it just means that there are no examples like this in the extant classical literature.

So you could say something like one of these:

  • nihilum mea interest/refert. 'I don't care at all.'
  • haud mea interest/refert. 'I hardly care.'
  • quam minimum/minimi mea interest/refert. 'I care as little as possible.'
  • quantulum mea interest/refert! 'How little I care!'
  • mea parum refert. 'I care little enough to matter.' (This is a quotation from M. Cornelius Fronto.)
  • num mea refert? 'Do I care?' (The answer 'no' is implied here because of the num. This is Plautus, Truculentus 723.)

(To capture the effect of the English 'damn,' I suppose you could add an edepol or the like to any of the preceding – e.g., nil edepol mea interest, 'By Pollux, I don't care at all.')

The simplest answer, though, may be to focus on your second version of the Spanish phrase. One of the adverbs that can be used with interest/refert is tantum, and tantum and quantum form a correlative pair that's equivalent to Spanish tanto como. Therefore, you could just say (tantum) mea interest quantum cuminum, 'It matters as much to me as as a cumin seed (matters).'

  • 1
    To say nothing of interest and refert.
    – Tom Cotton
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 18:12
  • 2
    Another nice example: tanti est quanti est fungus putidus (Plautus)
    – d_e
    Commented May 12, 2021 at 5:04
  • @d_e, I love that! (For the benefit of others, the source is Bacchides 821.) I suppose it could be 'personalized,' like the Spanish phrase cited in the original question, by adding a dative (what some grammar books would call a 'dative of the person judging'): mi(hi) tantist quantist fungus putidus.
    – cnread
    Commented May 13, 2021 at 18:02

Titivilitium of no value [Plautus]

This is a footnote to cnread's answer, an extended comment.

English does refer to 'peppercorn rent,' and 'faith as a grain of mustard seed,'and Edward Lear in the Jumblies

But we don’t care a button! we don’t care a fig!

But the phrases: 'isn't worth a fly,' 'to care not a straw for;' and even "I don't give a damn," are dated. There doesn't seem to be a natural English version of 'Me importa tanto como un comino.'

As for the Latin, cnread's answer floccus is undoubtedly best, though titivilitium seems worth a mention.

There is a preclassical word which sounds as if it may explain how floccus came to be the preferred word in Cicero's time: flocces, ullage.

flocces, um, f., I dregs or lees of wine (ante-class.) neque florem, neque flocces volo mihi, vinum volo, Caecil. ap. Non. 114, 17 (Com. Fragm. v. 190 Rib.): apludam edit et flocces bibit, Auct. ap. Gell. 11, 7, 3.

  • 2
    Ooh, very nice find. In OLD, the spelling is given as tittibilicium (just FYI).
    – cnread
    Commented Dec 14, 2018 at 20:56

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