46 votes
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Did the Romans use any swear words?

Yes, they used swear words all the time! There's actually a whole book on the subject, The Latin Sexual Vocabulary by J. N. Adams. Cinaedus (a pejorative term for a 'bottom'), mentula (male genitalia),...
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20 votes
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Did ancient Romans develop cryptography for Latin?

Yes. We know that Caesar was famous for using a cipher, which is still named for him: Some letters of his to the senate are also preserved, and he seems to have been the first to reduce such ...
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  • 39.4k
18 votes

Does it make sense to display a decimal number such as 12.34 as Roman numerals? If not, how else?

In general, if you're going for authentic Roman numerals, you'd have to convert the decimal portion into one of the fractions that a Roman would use – or a sum of those fractions. Obviously, this is ...
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16 votes
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Did the Romans use dictionaries to check what words mean?

Not really. This encyclopedia entry explains that The Greeks and Romans did not attempt a work containing all the words of their own or any foreign language; their early dictionaries were merely ...
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  • 2,492
16 votes
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Why would avoiding olive oil be a negative thing?

In the classical period, olive oil was considered a must-have piece of equipment for an athlete. The exact details of its use aren't known perfectly, but it appears that it was coated on an athlete's ...
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  • 2,492
15 votes
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Term for the water/wine ratio chooser?

The Latin term for this is magister bibendi or arbiter bibendi, or "master of drinking." Here's some context: After a roll of the dice, a magister bibendi was chosen. By appointing a certain ...
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14 votes
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What did a *cellarius* do?

Here is the little I could glean from the literature about the actual tasks of the cellarius. Celarii are mentioned frequently enough in texts but there is very little about their tasks, ...
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  • 8,301
14 votes
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How did the Romans call their currency?

Question 1 I wouldn't go with "wanted" per se, but fugitīvus (literally "runaway"). This comes from fugiō "to flee" and referred to rebellious slaves and military ...
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13 votes
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Does liberi only refer to free children?

It is generally accepted that liberi “children” is the same word as liber “free, not slave”. So, etymologically liberi are “free-born offspring of either sex”. But it is an error to assume that the ...
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  • 15.7k
12 votes
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Did the Romans 'tip' for good service?

It seems that corollarium was used in this sense. Lewis and Short describe the original meaning as "money paid for a garland of flowers", but elsewhere it is described more like money put in a ...
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  • 8,301
11 votes
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What verb is wine made with?

Cato Maior devotes a large subsection of De Agri Cultura to wine. You can read the entire text here, and as can be expected, he sticks to very simple verbs: general: making: vinum Graecum sic facito ...
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  • 1,420
11 votes

Hushing with a finger gesture

I found a non-classical reference to this gesture in the Metamorphoses (or Golden Ass) of Apuleius (AD 124-170): At ille, digitum a pollice proximum ori suo admovens et in stuporem attonitus, ‘Tace,...
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11 votes
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Hushing with a finger gesture

The Egyptian god Harpocrates was typically depicted as a boy with his finger held to his lips. Example here. He makes a few appearances in classical literature, such as Ovid, Metamorphoses 9.692: ...
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10 votes
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Why did Roman children call their father 'tata' instead of 'pappa'?

Yes, children did call their fathers papa, though it was not as common as tata was, at least we think. Both names are inherited from Indo-European as you can see and are even present in English: cf. ...
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10 votes
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Do Roman numerals stand for something?

My old Latin teacher jokingly taught that it's all based on hands. I for a single finger; V for the shape of the space between the thumb and the fingers when a palm is put up; and X for the shape of ...
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10 votes
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What did the Greeks and Romans call their pets?

Martial wrote a poem about Publius' dog called Issa. It begins: Issa est passere nequior Catulli, Issa est purior osculo columbae, Issa est blandior omnibus puellis, Issa est carior Indicis ...
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  • 8,301
9 votes
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Was the middle finger obscene in Ancient Rome?

The middle finger is mostly known from Greek comedy, but it is also mentioned in some Latin sources. Martial's Epigram 28, lines 1–2: Rideto multum qui te, Sextille, cinaedum Dixerit et ...
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9 votes
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How would a servus publicus be named - using the nominative or the genitive?

Stephen Wilson's The Means of Naming provides insight into the naming of Roman public slaves. His discussion touches on the sources of personal names and names of slaves owned privately, but also ...
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9 votes
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Did the Romans have a selection game?

Casting lots ("sortition") The most standard means of making a random selection was drawing lots (sortēs): everyone involved would put their names into a container, then one would be drawn ...
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9 votes
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How did the Romans wish happy holidays?

They did to a certain extent. I'm not aware of general holiday greetings, but at least for Saturnalia, they used the phrase Io, Saturnalia! Compare Martial 11.2.5: Clamant ecce mei 'Io Saturnialia' ...
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  • 39.4k
9 votes

What is the largest online Latin speaking community?

For actually speaking Latin (or Ancient Greek), I would recommend Latin & Ancient Greek Chat. The chats are hosted by a magister, and the group is very welcoming. Be advised, though, that unless ...
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  • 3,007
9 votes

What did the Greeks and Romans call their pets?

In Petronius, Satyricon 64, Trimalchio's favorite, Croesus, has an 'indecently fat black puppy' (catellam nigram atque indecenter pinguem) named Margarita, which means 'pearl', and Trimalchio himself ...
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  • 17.9k
8 votes

What is the largest online Latin speaking community?

This is not a full answer, but I can't resist giving it. If you can specify your question, you are likely to get more specific answers. The online Latin community I suggest is this site. As you have ...
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8 votes

Why would avoiding olive oil be a negative thing?

It is easy to forget how different cultural assumptions can be. Nowadays, a bath is for hygienic purposes, and private. For the Romans, though, a visit to the baths was social and cultural; the actual ...
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8 votes
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Did the Romans have children's books?

Quintilian, in The Orator's Education (1.1), writes at some length about teaching children, in particular children under the age of seven, how to read. He feels that they should learn to recognise ...
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8 votes
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Did the Romans have a color of mourning?

Black is mentioned as the colour of mourning in several places. Upon hearing of the death of her sister, Procne: induiturque atras vestes put on black clothes Ovid, Metamorphoses, 6.568a ...
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  • 8,301
8 votes

Did the Romans 'tip' for good service?

It's often held that the practice of tipping began in England around the 16th century, but there's some difference of opinion on the subject. For example: There are a few versions for the origin of ...
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8 votes
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What is Peniculus insinuating with his reference to Samian crockery?

The commentary that I have for the Menaechmi, by P. Thoresby Jones (Oxford U. Press), has this note for the line: Samiae: i.e. fragile like earthenware. Samian ware was the commonest crockery used at ...
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  • 17.9k
8 votes

The classical Latin speakers called Vulgar Latin sermo vulgaris, sermo vulgi, and sermo plebeius, but what did plebeians call their language?

This question assumes that "vulgar Latin" and "classical Latin" are two completely different languages. This, however, is untrue. As you said yourself, the classical authors called ...
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