Tuesday, March 19, 2013

ad kalendas graecas

ad kalendas graecas [ɑd kɑˈlɛndɑs ˈgraɪkɑs] adv.

1.) Never (Dictionary of Foreign Words, Adrian Room, 2000).

Etymology: Latin, literally on the Greek calends, from ad + kalendas graecas, accusative of kalendae graecae, Greek calends. The Greeks had no calends in their calendar, so this refers to a nonexistent time. (In the Roman calendar the calends were on the first day of any month.) Suetonius reports in his Life of Augustus that the emperor coined the phrase with reference to people who never planned to pay their debts: he would say "ad Kalendas Graecas soluturos" ("they will pay on the Greek Kalends").

"The dominion of Christ does not appear—in complete contrast to the Roman Empire—as an obvious, earthly and present political power. Thus the earthly power, ruling here and now, has no need—in its delusion—to feel concerned; the 'end of the age' and the coming of Christ for judgement can be deferred, as it were, ad kalendas Graecas" (Studies in Early Christology, Martin Hengel, 2004).

(Η Πέμπτη Σφραγίδα της Αποκαλύψεως, Δομήνικος Θεοτοκόπουλος, ~1611)

Apparently there's the equivalent English phrase, "on the Greek calends," as well. That phrase is in the OED, while the Latin phrase isn't. But if you're going to make a Roman joke, I figure you might as well do it in Latin.


Z said...

This is one of my favorites El Greco painting! I always look at that hours at MET Museum.
Do you live in NJ now?

Debra She Who Seeks said...

Given Greece's current teetering on the verge of bankruptcy, looks like they're still paying their debts on the Greek calends.

Vincent DeLuna said...

I often answer questions with "never". Quite often actually. What a great substitute. I'm going to practice this one.

Bibi said...

Oh I like this one. I bet no-one I know would have a clue... I wonder if it has a Dutch variant as well!

RYC: Something that looks too scary to ever have anywhere near where it's supposed to go.

Evi @ sexta-feira said...

With everything that's going on in Greece right now, the irony of this phrase isn't lost on me. But still, I don't think there's a more fascinating way to say 'never'!

p.s: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWRKgEy6Okg

ΥΓ 2: Μπορείς να διαβάσεις τον τίτλο του πίνακα στα ελληνικά;

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