Friday, June 13, 2008

Latin tattoo

Rogueclassicism has a post about a Latin tattoo on the back of the "escort" whom Eliot Spitzer had employed, and there are a lot of very bad interpretations, including silly jokes by those laughing at the supposedly bad Latin and punning on her work as a call girl.  (David's reading, at least, was sensible and accurate, unlike those cited in the piece.)

The phrase in question is tutela valui.

Some of the bad ones (inadvertently, I think) approach a decent and amusing reading: it should be "I have been well-kept" (literally "I have been well through guardianship").  This is in keeping with the Roman tutela mulieris.  The less provocative (and more likely) reading would be something like "I was raised well."

But my genuine reaction (again, taking tutela is an ablative of means) was that the phrase -- written by her bikini line -- means "It takes work to maintain a figure like this."  Literally "I have been well through upkeep."  This works through a metaphorical usage, e.g., where tutela refers to maintaining a building.

If that's the case I think it's a pretty cool tattoo, though I've never been one for "body art."

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