O tempora, o mores!! Do we need it?

Re: Clive on The Colbert Report
« Reply #5: Yesterday at 21:57 »

On a related topic, Mr James’s conversation with Jeremy Isaacs, in his “In the Library” series – on Sky Arts, I think –  last week, was superb.  
Particularly apposite were their comments on the decline of Channel 4 since its 1980s intellectual heyday.
O tempora, o mores, say I.

I’m not in principle opposed to using Latin phrases to express some profound thought when that that thought has been well expressed in that language.

A phrase like  O tempora, o mores, which roughly translated means means “what an age, what princilpes”  cannot be said to be much more profound that the good English exclamation “What a Life!!!”

The man who first credited with first exclaiming “O tempora, o mores!” (Oh the age, O its principles), Marcus Tullius  Cicero did so, not because the age was producing low-brow television, but because the senate he was addressing was allowing Lucieus Sergius Catlina, whom he believed –with some justification – to be hatching a plot to kill both him and some of the senators, to sit in and participate in its discussions. The exclamation was a mere rhetorical flourish with which Cicero, one of Rome’s most renowned rhetoricians was wont to pepper his speeches. In other words, the phrase’s originator was using it for effect and not to make any sort of commentary or observation.

If the phrases originator used the phrase for dramatic effect and not as a device for calling attention to some serious flaw in life or morals, then one must conclude that it has never carried much weight.


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