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    can 'posterity' be mistaken?


    can 'posterity' be mistaken?

    I have got a question (mainly) to our native speakers of (American) English:

    I suggested 'posterity' as substitution for 'descendants' in an English motto, which subsequently is to be translated into Latin. My client raises the objection that 'posterity' easily is mistaken as 'posterior' (=buttocks) -- which I could understand to a minuscule extent --, but says the same about the Latin (by the context declensed) form 'posteris', which I frankly doubt a bit.
    What would you say to this?

    Any help greatly appreciated
    AuthorPeter <de> (236455) 18 May 07, 08:34
    I doubt very much that Posterity and Posterior would be mixed up in normal English, unless the user has, for example, a poor education, and just doesn't know the difference.

    According to AHD, posterity is from posterITAs, ultimately from posterus, whereas posterIOR is the comparative of posterus (I can't confirm this, since I'm not a Latin expert)

    Of course, amateur Latin linguists might well translate incorrectly, not knowing the difference, but serious scholars shouldn't. So it rather depends on the education level of your employer, and the education levels of his prospective customers.

    #1Authorodondon irl18 May 07, 08:51
    What are the English and Latin phrases?

    Do you mean that they are actually going to use a Latin phrase which says something like "Non mihi sed posteris"?

    If the company had something to do with underwear, or something, then I can imagine it might be a good idea to use something else.
    #2AuthorCM2DD (236324) 18 May 07, 09:01
    @CM2DD - if I've read the AHD entries correctly, then one would read: "non mihi sed posterITAs" whereas the other would read "non mihi sed posteRIS" (or posterIOR) - which would make it more difficult to confuse (whereby I've no idea whether your Latin phrase actually makes any sense in either version....)
    #3Authorodondon irl18 May 07, 09:10
    As an American, I can't imagine posterity being mixed up with posterior. Anyone who thinks that it is is real good at puns or just immature.
    #4Authortrocco (AE) (240804) 18 May 07, 09:16
    Oh, I just got it off Google:

    It depends what kind of company it is, and if they do have some connection to posteriors which would make people more likely to make a connection! I don't think "Non mihi sed posteris" would have made me think of buttocks, but if it had been a lingerie shop, well ...
    #5AuthorCM2DD (236324) 18 May 07, 09:18
    > I doubt very much that Posterity and Posterior would be mixed up in normal English, unless the user has, for example, a poor education, and just doesn't know the difference.

    lingua vulgaris: can't tell his arse from his elbow?

    but I basically agree with odondon and CM2DD
    #6AuthorMarianne (BE) (237471) 18 May 07, 10:08
    Thank you for your answers, folks! It is somehow comforting that you share my point of view ;-)

    Sorry for being absent a while, otherwise I would have given the phrases sooner. Here you go:

    Indebted to our ancestors, obliged to our descendants / posterity

    gratias habens majoribus ac posteris obligatus

    @odondon: 'posteri' (Pl.) is the actual offspring, the descendants, with 'posteris' as dative, whereas 'posteritas' is an abstract noun (Nachkommenschaft, Nachwelt), whose dative form runs 'posteritati'.

    CM2DD, thanks a lot for coming up with 'non mihi sed posteris' (not for me but for (my) offspring), maybe that could help in showing my client that I am not totally wrong with my version.

    BTW, it is an individual customer whose educational level I cannot tell precisely. He wants to use both the English and Latin version as a motto on a coats of arms
    #7AuthorPeter <de> (236455) 18 May 07, 10:19
    Marianne, I'll treasure this priceless gem -- you've made my day!!
    #8AuthorPeter <de> (236455) 18 May 07, 10:28
    Wenn es sich um einen Wappenspruch handelt, kann ich mir wahrhaftig nicht vorstellen, dass jemand das "posterity" ernsthaft verwechselt. (Und wenn, dann nur jemand, der den kompletten Spruches nicht versteht)

    Peter, mir gefällt die lateinische Variante des Spruches besser:
    "indebted" klingt für mich eher nach "in jmds. Schuld stehen, jemandem verpflichtet sein", währenddessen in "gratias habens" die Dankbarkeit konkret im Wort 'gratias' deutlich wird. Das Lateinisch klingt also freundlicher als das Englische :-)
    #9AuthorBirgila/DE (172576) 18 May 07, 10:29
    Birgila, danke auch Dir für Deine Zeilen.

    Nun ja, das Englische betont eher die Dankes_schuld_, aber so wie ich den Kunden verstanden hatte, war es ihm darum zu tun, Anerkennung für die Leistungen seiner Altvorderen als Voraussetzung für das eigene Dasein auszudrücken. Vielleicht kann noch jemand eine Verbesserung vorschlagen?

    Eine Version des Kunden selbst war übrigens 'in tribute to ...', was ich reichlich merkwürdig fand - 'to pay tribute to' ist okay, aber mit dem modalen 'in' kombiniert, isch weißet nit ...
    #10AuthorPeter <de> (236455) 18 May 07, 10:37
    Peter, die Googlehits zu "in tribute to" sehen ganz vernünftig aus.
    Ehrlich gesagt, ich finde "tribute" gar nicht schlecht...
    #11AuthorBirgila/DE (172576) 18 May 07, 10:41
    Jaaa, aber ...
    in den Beispielen ist immer irgendetwas Konkretes genannt, was zu Ehren des Adressaten abgeliefert wird: ein Gedicht, eine Laudatio, ein Artikel o. ä.
    Oder sehe ich das zu eng?
    #12AuthorPeter <de> (236455) 18 May 07, 10:50
    "In tribute to our ancestors" would mean they set up the company as a symbol to remind everyone of something their ancestors did in the past.

    "Indebted to our ancestors" means they are very grateful to their ancestors for what they did to make the company so great today.

    BTW "ancestors" means their family (great-grandfather, for example) whereas "predecessors" means someone who may or may not be related to them.

    "Obliged" also means grateful, as in "I'm much obliged to you for what you have done for me".
    #13AuthorCM2DD (236324) 18 May 07, 10:54
    CM2DD, thank you for your remarks.

    Since the phrases are supposed to be used as a family motto, 'ancestors' seems appropriate.

    re 'obliged': How would you express obligation, then? Would 'obligated' suit better for the sense of 'Verpflichtung' you have towards your children (along the lines of "Wir haben die Erde nur von unseren Kindern geerbt")? Or could 'obliged' convey this as well?
    #14AuthorPeter <de> (236455) 18 May 07, 11:03
    The trouble is, obligation can mean gratitude, just as Verpflichtung can ... usually you can tell what is meant from the context (He was obliged to do something/he was obliged to her for her help), but obviously you need something short here.

    I can't say I'd ever use "obligated" but there seems to be a similar dual meaning:
    obligate verb (obligated, obligating) 1 to bind or oblige someone by contract, duty or moral obligation. 2 to bind someone by gratitude.

    How about:
    We owe a duty to our descendants
    We are accountable/answerable to our descendants

    Is that the idea?
    #15AuthorCM2DD (236324) 18 May 07, 11:15
    Quite so, CM2DD.
    Maybe I can use the answerable bit, thank you.

    I had sensed this dual meaning of both obliged and obligated before and did check the dictionaries as well. Problem is the shortness with its lack of clarifying context, as you correctly say.

    But the main concern has been dispelled anyway. Thanks again to all contributors for your helpful answers.
    #16AuthorPeter <de> (236455) 18 May 07, 11:26
    Indebted/Grateful to our ancestors, obligated to our descendants
    (Owing) gratitude to our ancestors, obligation/responsibility to our descendants
    Owing thanks to our ancestors, duty/responsibility toward our descendants
    In tribute to our ancestors, in trust for our descendants

    I don't think most people would confuse 'posterity' with 'posterior' at all, but someone who wants a new coat of arms made for a modern family or company might not necessarily be very well educated, so if the association doesn't work for him, that's what matters. Besides, 'posterity' doesn't really mean a single family but rather all future human generations, so it would be a bit out of place with 'our.' And the plural 'descendants' sounds better in the sentence anyway because 'ancestors' is plural.

    'Obliged' actually is similar to 'indebted,' so theoretically you could say 'Obliged to our ancestors, obligated to our descendants.' (And not the other way around in either case; that is, I don't see any dual meaning, the words are just different.) However, 'Much obliged' is just a casual/rural/old-fashioned way to say 'Thank you' politely, and that association is too trivial for this, er, lofty saying. 'Indebted' is the most serious and formal, though 'grateful' or 'appreciative' might be more like 'gratias habens.'

    —> one coat of arms, two coats of arms
    #17Authorhm -- us (236141) 18 May 07, 16:17
    Oh, and 'Can posterity be mistaken?' would mean 'Kann die Nachwelt sich irren / Unrecht haben?', because 'be mistaken' simply means 'be wrong.'

    'Mistaken' in the sense of 'verwechselt' needs 'for': to mistake A for B, A was mistaken for B, or less formally, to confuse A with B, A was confused with B. So: 'Can 'posterity' be mistaken for / confused with 'posterior'?
    #18Authorhm -- us (236141) 18 May 07, 16:26
    Danke, hm--us, für Deine Bemerkungen, die ich LIFO beantworten möchte:

    Was, wenn ich nicht 'verwechseln mit', sondern 'falsch aufgefaßt werden' hatte ausdrücken wollen? Kann das genus verbi wirklich nicht Passiv sein, zumal die Anführungszeichen um posterity es von seiner "normalen" Funktion als Subjekt lösen und es als isolierten Begriff kennzeichnen? Aber ich bekenne mich schuldig, eine sozusagen homonyme Konstruktion anstelle eines eindeutigeren 'misunderstood' verwendet zu haben.

    re coat(s): Danke auch dafür, wahrscheinlich war mein Hirn bereits bei den Waffen, als meine Finger erst beim Mantel ;-) waren ...

    re dual meaning: Die Mehrdeutigkeit steckt für meine Begriffe in der Art der Verpflichtung, ich glaube nicht, daß CM2DDs Wörterbuchbeleg (Quelle?) grundlegend irrt. Die Strenge des Verpflichtetseins aber ist bei 'obligated' sicherlich größer als bei 'obliged', insofern teile ich Deine Auffassung, daß 'obligated' nicht im ersten Teil des Spruchs stehen kann (was aber auch gar nicht zur Debatte stand).

    re to our descendants / posterity: Der Schrägstrich ließ nicht erkennen, daß ich gemeint hatte: to our descendants / to posterity. Die Parallelisierung der Pluralformen hatte ich dem Kunden übrigens auch vorgeschlagen, aber das konntest Du ja nicht wissen.

    Ich habe mittlerweile mit meinem Kunden Kontakt aufgenommen und finde Deine (und meine stille) Vermutung bestätigt, daß es sich um eher nicht-klassisch gebildetes Publikum handelt. Insofern ist a) das Fehlverständnis erklärbar und b), wie Du richtig sagst, eine andere Lösung des 'posteris ‹-› posterior'-Problems erforderlich.

    Deinen letzten Vorschlag 'in tribute ...' aber werde ich, wenn ich darf, gerne aufgreifen.
    #19AuthorPeter <de> (236455) 18 May 07, 18:14
    Wer nicht klassisch gebildet ist, kriegt auch kein Wappen mit lateinischem Spruch. (Und muss ohne Nachspeise ins Bett.)
    #20AuthorBirgila/DE (172576) 18 May 07, 18:31
    @Birgila: *gggggg* ... aber vorher in die Ecke, und zwar bis zwanzig, und nicht geschummelt noch um gedreht! ;-))
    #21AuthorPeter <de> (236455) 18 May 07, 18:42
    Hallo Birgila, kannst du noch mal in den Faden hier schauen? related discussion: Brickhouse built, buddy cute
    Du hast die Frage von rühl noch nicht beantwortet, würde mich aber auch interessieren. :-)
    #22Authorwoody18 May 07, 23:08
    oh! ich gleich mal rüber und seh nach, woody. :-)
    #23AuthorBirgila/DE (172576) 19 May 07, 08:21
    Not only is "posterity" perfectly fine here, it has classic echoes in the minds of educated Americans:

    "We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America."

    --Preamble of the Constitution of the United States.
    #24AuthorPeter <us> (41) 19 May 07, 09:16
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