Thursday, August 20, 2009

Who dares meddle with me?

Driving home this afternoon I saw in front of me a modest-sized white 4x4 with the classiest back-windscreen motto I've ever seen: Nemo me impune lacessit. It rang a faint and distant bell but I couldn't place it, and I've never studied Latin, so I sat there in the traffic trying to nut it out. Nemo means nobody, of course, and me is obvious, and it's a fair old bet that impune has something to do with punishment or the lack of punishment, but lacessit had me stumped. What could it all mean? 'Can't blame me for trying'? 'No jury would ever convict me'?

Five minutes later I pull into the driveway, leap out of the car, run into the house and google it before I forget it. Hooray for Wikipedia:
Nemo me impune lacessit is the Latin motto of the Order of the Thistle and of three Scottish regiments of the British Army. The motto also appears, in conjunction with the collar of the Order of the Thistle, in later versions of the Royal coat of arms of the Kingdom of Scotland and subsequently in the version of the Royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom used in Scotland. It is often translated as No one attacks me with impunity, or rendered in Scots as Wha daur meddle wi' me? ("Cha togar m'feargh gun dioladh" in Scottish Gaelic.)

Duh. Given that I'd just spent the afternoon with my father, you'd think Wha daur meddle wi' me would have been the very first thing I'd thought of.

It occurs to me later that it's really just the high-class version of that image you often see on the back of the car in front of you: Yosemite Sam twirling his six-guns and snarling 'Back off.' I love Loony Tunes, but I think I like the Latin even better.


Elisabeth said...

Who dares meddle with me?

It could read as a warning to anyone wanting to respond on your blog.
I have the same tremulous sensation whenever I leave a comment on anyone's blog, at least on blogs when I do not 'actually' know the person behind the blog, that I might be getting too close, that I might write something disrespectful or something that could be construed as hostile.
It's almost as dangerous as driving around the streets in the cocoon of your car. The messages that people leave on their back windscreens can be as cryptic as the posts and comments we leave on blogs.

Kerryn Goldsworthy said...

It's such a fierce thing to say, isn't it. I had a Scottish grandma and I can just hear it in her accent. I don't know how much experience you have as a blog commenter, Elisabeth, but it seems very unlikely to me that anyone could construe any comments of yours as disrespectful or hostile unless they were seriously deranged.

I know what you mean about bumper stickers and such -- I've got a lovely one saying 'My other car is a broom', but somebody said to me that if I drove around with that in the US I'd get my car vandalised by fundamentalist Christians who thought I really seriously meant I was a witch. I also, for much the same reasons (and I hardly dare confess this), don't wear my footy team's colours on the car even when they're in the finals, what with them being Adelaide's equivalent to Collingwood and all. I fear that the car, or indeed I, will be attacked by some crazed Crows supporter.

Prudence said...

It's amused me for quite few years to wear a sticker of a Christian fish with legs and Darwin written in the middle of it. Imagine that in the bible belt of the Deep South!

Mind you, I was once asked if I'd been fishing in Darwin...

Armagny said...

Nemo dat quod non habet!

Although it has to be said, Res Ipsa Loquiter.

Henry said...

Saying it in Latin rather raises the tone of the road rage, doesn't it?

Such as "Si hoc potes legere, traheam meam amisi" (If you can read this, I've lost my trailer)

or "Malem Praedari" (I'd rather be pillaging)

Still, I'd stick with the classics: "Quo usque tandem abutere, jerk, patientia nostra"

Zarquon said...

At least it wasn't oderint dum metuant

Helen said...

Jeez Adelaide, so cultured, even the 4WD driving bogans have their BACK OFF!!! signs in Latin.

Helen said...


No comment, just a word verification that was too good to waste!

I'm awee noo. *scuttle*

Elisabeth said...

Please, those of you who write in Latin, give us a translation of your words!
It's lovely to see the Latin but it's a long time since my school days of amo amas amat.
Maybe I'm too lazy to get out the Latin dictionary. Still a translation would be less obfuscating.

BwcaBrownie said...

1. what Elisabeth said first time.

2. Yosemite Sam ancestors probably from Glasgow.

3. we all know lotsa latin:
the cops - Tenez Le Droit (as if)
Her Maj - Honi Soit Qui Mal Y Pense
4. the Yanks: E Pluribus Unum

and Skool: mine was Mens Conscia Recti Minds Conscious Of Right.