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bonum commune communitatis

The title above comes from Hot Fuzz. Having (and forgetting most of) an extensive education in the Latin language makes me pay attention whenever someone starts spouting it.

While doing a little poking around trying to make sure I had it all spelled right, I came across something written by a man named Mortimer J. Adler, an article that includes the Latin phrase used in the movie. I only read part of it, but the final clause of the final sentence below is profound and speaks to me. Perhaps it will speak to you.

“It is necessary to add one critical qualification that must be placed upon the obligations of justice. No one — neither the individual nor society — can be expected to do what, at the time, is impossible; failure to do the impossible is not morally culpable.”

By elyograg

Faced with the choice between changing one's mind and proving that there is no need to do so, almost everyone gets busy with the proof.
-- J.K. Galbraith

12 replies on “bonum commune communitatis”

Hmm. I’ll hazhard a guess, but I can’t be certain – it’s been a long time:

What is good for my house is good for my community? Dunno, it’s obviously one of those clever idiomatic self reflexive things that denies clear translation if you’re not in on the joke. There were clearer ways to make the point without forcing a single root into double duty.

amo amas amat…

Probably the best direct translation is “the good of the public community,” which to me is a much clearer statement than what’s in the movie: “the greater good.”

why is my latin better on no sleep? I just realized bonum commune is an infinitive verb phrase, with communitatis as its ad-something (not ablative) object.

Gah. I said infinitive – I meant imperative, as in “do that!”

The ive words were the only way I ever made sense of any of it. Vocabulary was easy, but without those marvelous charts I would have been lost. Wish I still had my books from those days.

Wow, you guys really need to work on your Latin. bonum commune is neuter and basically means “common good,” and communitatis is genitive (“of the community”) – so “common good of the community”. Granted, they may have something a little neater in mind, but that’s the literal translation.

An alternative reading would be that commune is a neuter noun meaning “community” or “common property,” so this could be “good community of togetherness/community” or something like that. No infinitives or imperatives involved here.

It’s been exactly 20 years since high school graduation, which is the last time I spent any real effort on Latin.

Thank you for coming to my blog and telling me I’m stupid, by the way. I suppose I could find a way to appreciate it, if I try really hard.

Oh, I wasn’t directing my comments towards you, and I didn’t mean to sound like I was putting you down. Your thoughts were pretty much right on the money with your original comment about “the good of the public community.” I was just amused by the guy (Gil) who kept having these wonderful ideas about what it must be (“it’s imperative! it’s accusative! it’s ablative! it’s an infinitive!”) and figured I’d chime in. Sorry to not be clear about that.

I was watching the movie yesterday, couldn’t quite make out what they were saying, and stumbled across your blog entry with the actual Latin.

Woohoo, I’m amusing! Two shows nightly, remember to tip your waitresses, and if you show up for Sunday bring a gerund.

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