Flocci non Facio

In French, there is no difference between "conscience" and "consciousness." In Japanese, there is a word that specifically refers to the splittable wooden chopsticks you get at restaurants. The German word “fremdschämen” encapsulates the feeling you get when you’re embarrassed on behalf of someone else. All of these require explanation in order to properly communicate their meaning, and are, to varying degrees, untranslatable. Choose a word, tell us what it means, and then explain why it cannot (or should not) be translated from its original language.

If there is one important thing I have learned as a Latin student, it is that if Latin were translated 100% literally, the English translation would make less sense than the original Latin text itself. The beauty of Latin rests in the multiple meanings of many words, and therefore Latin literature is open for a wealth of interpretation. That same beauty is found in the phrase “flocci non facio." Not only is it a fantastic example of alliteration, but its literal meaning is also peculiar in the most entertaining way possible.

“Flocci non facio” literally means “I do not make a tuft of wool,” but this literal meaning does not do the phrase any justice whatsoever. If I were to say “I do not make a tuft of wool” to my peers at school, I would promptly be sent to the nurse’s office; however, if I say “flocci non facio” to my classmates during Latin class, they would nod their heads in acknowledgement. My Latin textbook amusingly translates “flocci non facio” as “I do not give a hoot,” but even that phrase, in my opinion, does not properly express the meaning. “Flocci non facio” essentially means that something is so trivial that it is less important than a piece of lint, so the person saying it clearly does not care at all about the...

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