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:



Filed under A Good Home, LATIN

60 responses to “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!

  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. I love Latin plant names, my favorite Metasequioa glyptostroboides.

  4. Wonderful Cynthia! And the other Cynthia, the poet, of course has come up with another addition – known outside the States too.

  5. I love this tribute to the Latin language. My father was fond of saying “Tempus fugit.” (Don’t know why I had to sign in to like and leave a comment…)

  6. Marsha Williams

    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!

    • 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.

  7. This is a wonderful, fun tribute to Latin, Cynthia! I never studied Latin, but learned a little here and there, mainly from biology.

  8. 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. 🙂

  9. 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.

  10. I like your mood. 🙂 Deo volente it will continue.

  11. Marvellous post! I have always been thankful that Latin was a given when I was at school. It proves useful to this day. Have a glorious week, Cynthia!

  12. 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.”

    • 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!

  13. Sometimes we just get in that kind of mood, right? 🙂

  14. Haha, a great post to start the day with! And my mom always added: ” and make sure it is clean, you never know when you will end up in hospital!” xo Johanna

  15. 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!”

  16. They started teaching Latin at the kids school a few years ago. I’ll have to teach them “semper ubi sub ubi” and they can say it to the Priest teaching…wouldn’t that be fun 🙂

  17. What a lively conversation your delightful post started! Latin does seem to connect us all in some ways. I always learn from blogs – thanks for the lesson!

  18. 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! 😀

  19. Having studied plants and botany for years I’ve had to try to learn Latin on my own. I’ve always wanted to study it formally but Latin classes are hard to find!

  20. 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!

    • Isn’t German more difficult than Latin, Clare?

      • 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.

      • You learned French and German! They are such completely different languages. Did that make it harder or easier to learn?

      • 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!

      • 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.

  21. 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. 🙂

  22. 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.

  23. I fear to think how bad Teenage son’s grades would be if he WASN’T studying Latin! He loves it

  24. I like your high school one – Sic Luceat Lux: Let your light so shine. I think they were actually way ahead of the curve. 🙂

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