Surprised Medievalist Cat on the Importance of Macrons


Except macrons are always optional. In the 6th edition of Wheelock’s Latin, says on page 226, “Years ago some pundit wrote (demonstrating the importance of macrons), mālō malō malō mālō, I’d rather be in an apple tree than a bad man in adversity….” I looked like this when I first read that sentence, and months later I can’t say I’ve completely understood the structure, but I’ll comment on what I think is going on here, numbering the four words:

  1. mālum, -ī, meaning “apple tree” with the ablative of place that doesn’t necessarily require a preposition
  2. malus, -a, -um, an adjective meaning “bad, wicked, evil,” this appears to be an ablative of place, with “malus” serving as a substantive (“bad place,” with “place” implied, loosely translated as “in adversity”).
  3. Also from malus, -a, -um, this appears to be a masculine singular substantive of ablative case in which the “man” of “bad man” is implied. This second element in the comparison would take the ablative and allow the comparative “quam” to be removed. The structure works in Latin, though order needs to be rearranged for the English translation.
  4. mālō, mālle, māluī, compound of magis + volō, an irregular verb meaning “to want something more/instead,” here conjugated in the present tense


Surprised Medievalist Cat on the Importance of Macrons — 2 Comments

    • When I try to put it into a fuller sentence with prepositions and whatnot, I get “Mālō esse in arbore malō quam esse vir malus in tempore malō.” I’ll let someone else with more experience in Latin comment on whether or not I’ve done this correctly; I doubt I needed to repeat “esse” and I’m still shaky on comparative structure.

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