Alex Steer

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All for the love of Marmite (and Latin)

466 words | ~2 min

Have you heard of the Marmarati? They are, notionally, the secret society of fanatical Marmite lovers, the chosen few who get to express and celebrate their obsessive love for the yeast-based spread on a variety of social media platforms.

The Marmarati are the product of (or, you might say, they simply are) a social media campaign by We are social. It's a neat bit of brand-as-movement campaign-building, a sort of next step from initiatives like the Cadbury's For The Love Of Wispa campaign. And, as befits any decent secret society, especially in the post-Dan Brown era, they have a Latin motto.

The motto is Tantum Pro Diligo. It's not translated anywhere on the site, as far as I can tell, so presumably it's intended as a neat extra flourish for those Marmarati (or would-be Marmarati) who did a bit of Latin at school. It's meant to convey the idea that the Marmarati's actions are done 'all for the love' of Marmite.

Except for one thing. They've got their Latin wrong.

Any better classicists than me are welcome to wade in here (leave a comment, tweet or email), but to me it looks like they've looked up 'all', 'for', and 'love' in a Latin dictionary. 'Tantum pro' is fine, as far as I can see. But...

'Diligo' is a verb. This can happen with English-Latin dictionaries, which often give English entries listed by base form (infinitive without to - e.g. live instead of to live) and Latin entries listed by the first person singular present active - e.g. vivo ('I live').

So if you look up 'love' in an English-Latin dictionary, you may get 'diligo' back as a result, because you've accidentally looked at the verb 'love', not the noun. 'Diligo' means 'I love'.

Which means 'tantum pro diligo' means 'all for I love'. Which doesn't make much sense. The corresponding noun for 'love' is dilectio. So the Marmarati's motto should be Tantum Pro Dilectione.

Why on earth does this crusty classical pedantry matter? Because they've made it matter by including it. Language games can be fun, mischievously exclusive, and tantalising. Latin, in particular, is good for setting a certain tone: arcane, inaccessible, secretive. But if you get it wrong, you look silly.

PS - If I've got this wrong, I'm prepared to look silly, and blame it all on Muphry's law.

# Alex Steer (08/03/2010)