A Good Home, LATIN

Always Where Under Where

Blog Photo Underwear - NYPL Digital Collection
Credit: New York Public Library

I hear it was national underwear day recently.  

Which made me think of this saying likely made up by mischievous students forced to study Latin: Semper ubi sub ubi.  “Always where under where”. 


A friend told me that when he started studying Latin in school, all his other grades shot up. Why? Well, think about it.

Whether it’s English literature or any of the Latin-based languages (Italian, Spanish, Portuguese, French and some Romanian), words that hadn’t made sense before, suddenly did. Then there’s biology, botany, chemistry, law, etc… lots of Latin words.

Many countries, schools and other institutions have Latin words in their motto. My high school’s motto was Sic Luceat Lux: Let your light so shine. And Canada’s motto is A Mari Usque Ad Mare: From Sea to Sea.


Think how many Latin terms are still in common usage: 

Bona Fide In good faith
Carpe Diem Seize the day
Caveat Emptor Buyer beware

Scribes and bookworms will know these:

Deus Ex Machina Literally God from a machine. Describes a miraculous turn of events in fiction.
Ibid. In the same place (in a book).

And one of my favourites: Sic transit gloria mundi. How fleeting is fame.”

But I sympathize with the person who so disliked studying Latin, s/he made up this famous verse:

“Latin is a language

As dead as can be

First it killed the Romans

And now it’s killing me!”


If you’re wondering why I wrote this — the answer is, I was just in that kind of mood. 

And so I leave you with the immortal words: semper ubi sub ubi.

For more great Latin terms: http://users.accesscomm.ca/nsalway/latin.html

60 thoughts on “Always Where Under Where”

  1. This is great fun, Cynthia… and to whomever doesn’t think so, I say “illegitimi non carborundum,” a well-known mock Latin aphorism here in the USA. Thanks for the chuckles!

      1. I was also under the impression that it was first coined by an Englishman, Pauline, then adopted by American soldiers in WWII. Apparently it’s not strictly good Latin, but it surely is good enough to make the point! 🙂

      2. It surely is! 😀 My aunt’s husband fought in the Crimean War as a 14 year old [can you imagine!] I have a vague and woolly memory that he was the one who used to say it the most….. and maybe it was he who ‘translated’ it for me when I was young and impressionable 🙂

  2. I am not old enough to remember Latin mass but the few times I’ve been to a mass where they’ve gone old school with hymn or verse–it’s been beautiful.

  3. Hi Cynthia. Your blog reminds me of the Port Perry (rural) high school in the 1960s where Miss Alice Chrysler taught Latin and at the ripe ago of 14 in grade 10, us students were called on to decide whether we would give ourselves over to Miss Chrysler (thankfully quite a lovely teacher) for the next three or four years and thus have enough of the right kind of credits for university admission, or whether we would instead take shop (boys only) or typing (almost entirely girls) and thus consign ourselves to going out to work after junior matriculation (grade 12) with no chance of a university education. This puella hustled into the Latin class and never regretted it – though the typing would also have been an asset. Thanks for the reminder!

    1. You were fortunate, indeed! What a lovely tale you shared, Marsha. As for typing: I failed typing three times in journalism school. Some of us – methinks – were made for Latin, not typing.

  4. Thank you for the smiles! I love that picture, and your timely explanations. 🙂 🙂 National Underwear Day? Why not? I think I’ll go and find some glad rags. 🙂

  5. Even better ‘for National Underwear Day: Semper ubi ubi in caput tuum’ Always wear underwear on your head.
    I am always glad I learnt Latin. As you say, so useful for other languages and of course for plant names. Besides, at my school the alternative was sewing. And that meant doing things with needles; the instruments of the devil.

  6. I always wished I had learned Latin–we didn’t have that option at my small high school. My niece goes to the University of Vermont, which everyone calls UVM. Where do those initials come from, I hear you ask? Universitas Viridis Montis, Latin for “University of the Green Mountains.”

    1. When I started high school, they had recently stopped teaching Latin. I taught myself Latin while learning Spanish and French — though I’m sure I often put the emphasis on the wrong syllable!

  7. ps I made think to of creative ways we used mix up proverbs and sayings too: ” do not count your chickens before the bear is shot, that old fox has few tricks up his sleeve yet!”

  8. It seems that even if we’ve never studied Latin we still know some of these sayings, Cynthia. I studied law for a while and those professors absolutely love using Latin! 😀

    1. They are hard to find. Too bad. Do you follow Chloris in Suffolk (the blooming garden) or Amy in florida (the shrub queen)? Those two women are serious plant-knowers who are always using Latin for their plant names. I’m most impressed!

  9. I never studied Latin at school (my grades at the end of my first year at secondary school weren’t good enough so I learnt German) but I’ve picked up a bit here and there over the years. National underwear day – I had no idea!

      1. I have no idea! My school obviously thought not. Spanish was for those who didn’t do as *well* as me. I never quite understood why the authorities at the school graded languages as they did though of course I am very pleased I was given the opportunity to learn French and German. Many schools now have no compulsory foreign language lessons which means that most young people do not bother to learn.

      2. I think it made it easier to learn as there were always points of comparison. We began French as soon as we started at secondary school so had had a year of it before we began our second language (Latin/German/Spanish). Before going to my secondary school I had had a rather ‘progressive’ 60’s education where it wasn’t thought necessary to learn English grammar or times tables in Mathematics. It was thought we would understand the basics through practical experiments and story writing etc. Of course we didn’t and I’ve had a struggle with Maths and English ever since. I never realised until I was quite old (late teens) that English had grammar as well as French and German!

      3. What an interesting tale, Clare. And a bit funny too, as I kinda wished English didn’t have grammar at times. It’s all so convoluted. Thank God it’s my first language as I have no idea how anyone learns it later in life.

  10. I am getting caught up on your posts–all so interesting. I am sorry for the loss of your friend, and your pooch. This post makes me smile–your sense of humour is contagious. 🙂

  11. Fun post. It made me think of the liberty bodices of my childhood and the long hours of learning Latin. It all paid off when I tried to learn Italian and found that all I need to do was mesh the Latin and the French I had absorbed in my years in Belgium.

    1. You’ve got that right, Hilary. My colleagues were always “bouleversees” by my grasp of Italian, not knowing it was a mixture of Italian, Latin, French and Spanish!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s