Dog Latin

Not to be confused with Pig Latin.

Dog Latin, also known as Cod Latin, macaronic Latin, mock Latin, or Canis Latinicus,[1] refers to the creation of a phrase or jargon in imitation of Latin,[2] often by "translating" English words (or those of other languages) into Latin by conjugating or declining them as if they were Latin words. Unlike the similarly named language game Pig Latin (a form of playful spoken code), Dog Latin is more of a humorous device for invoking scholarly seriousness.

Sometimes "dog Latin" can mean a poor-quality attempt at writing genuine Latin.[3]


Examples of this predate even Shakespeare, whose 1598 play, Love's Labour Lost, includes a reference to dog Latin:

Costard: Go to; thou hast it ad dungill, at the fingers' ends, as they say.

Holofernes: O, I smell false Latine; dunghill for unguem.[4]

Thomas Jefferson mentioned dog Latin by name in 1815:

Fifty-two volumes in folio, of the acta sanctorum, in dog-latin, would be a formidable enterprise to the most laborious German.[5]


A once-common schoolboy doggerel which, though very poor Latin, would have done a tolerable job of reinforcing the rhythms of Latin hexameters:

Patres conscripti took a boat, and went to Philippi;
Boatum est upsettum, magno cum grandine venti.
Omnes drownderunt qui swim away non potuerunt.
Trumpeter unus erat, qui coatum scarlet habebat;
Et magnum periwig, tied about with the tail of a dead pig.[1]

  1. ^ Notes and Queries. October 13, 1855. Retrieved January 16, 2010. 

Insofar as this specimen can be translated, it is as follows:

The conscript fathers [i.e. Senators] took a boat and went to Philippi. The boat was upset by a great hailstorm of wind. All drowned who could not swim away. There was a trumpeter, who had a scarlet coat, and a great periwig, tied about with the tail of a dead pig.

The meter uses Latin vowel quantities for the Latin parts, and to some extent follows English stress in the English parts.

Another variant has similar lines in a different order, with the following variants:

Stormum surgebat et boatum oversetebat

Excipe John Periwig tied up to the tail of a dead pig.[6]

The meaning here is "The storm rose up and overturned the boat" and "Except for John Periwig", etc.

Another verse in similar vein, from Ronald Searle's Down with Skool, is:[7]

Caesar adsum jam forte
Brutus aderat
Caesar sic in omnibus
Brutus sic in at

which, when read aloud using traditional English pronunciation of Latin, sounds like the following:

Caesar 'ad(had) some jam for tea
Brutus 'ad a rat
Caesar sick in omnibus
Brutus sick in 'at (hat)

but which means in Latin

Caesar I am already here by chance
Brutus was present
Caesar thus in all things
Brutus thus in but

The following spoof of legal Latin, in the fictional case of Daniel v Dishclout (from George Alexander Stevens' "Lecture on Heads", 1765),[8] describes a kitchen:

camera necessaria pro usus cookare, cum saucepannis, stewpannis, scullero, dressero, coalholo, stovis, smoak-jacko; pro roastandum, boilandum, fryandum, et plumpudding mixandum, pro turtle soupos, calve's-head-hashibus, cum calipee et calepashibus.

In English, this is:

A necessary room for the purpose of cooking, with saucepans, stewpans, scullery, dresser, coalhole, stoves, smoke-jack; for roasting, boiling, frying, and mixing plum pudding, for turtle soups, calves'-head hashes, with calipee and calipashes.

Further examples

See also


  1. Canis Latinicus - Television Tropes and Idioms
  2. Dog-Latin,
  3. OED s.v. "dog," compounds C3a
  4. The Straight Dope: What's the origin of pig Latin?
  5. Letter to John Adams, 08/10/1815
    I had supposed them defunct with the society of Jesuits, of which they were: and that their works, although above ground, were, from their bulk and insignificance, as effectually entombed on their shelves, as if in the graves of their authors. Fifty-two volumes in folio, of the acta sanctorum, in dog-Latin, would be a formidable enterprise to the most laborious German.
  6. Percival Leigh (1840). The comic Latin grammar. Retrieved January 16, 2010.
  7. Willans, Geoffrey; Searle, Ronald (1953). Down with Skool!. London: Max Parrish.
  8. , retrieved November 2, 2009
  9. Langford, David (2007). The End of Harry Potter?. Macmillan. p. 62. ISBN 9781429985208. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
  10. "Canis Latinicus - TV Tropes". 2016-06-09. Retrieved 2016-06-13.
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