Latin Lover: Quod me nutrit me destruit

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Welcome to the first installment of a new feature I'm calling Latin Lover. Yes, Latin is a dead language, but its ghost haunts our lives in so many ways, we just gotta write about it.

Keeping on the Angelina Jolie ink theme of this morning, let's take a look at the phrase, Quod me nutrit me destruit "“ a tattoo Jolie sports below her navel.

The literal translation: "What nourishes me destroys me," generally gets interpreted as "what really motivates a person can also consume from within." Though, some pro-anorexia forums (whose members say anorexia is a lifestyle choice, not an illness), started using it not too long ago to refer, obviously, to food.

But the origins of the phrase are semi-hazy. It's not found in any classic Latin text, or attributed to any writer from ancient times. So is it possible that Jolie and these pro-anorexia groups are using the wrong variation on a theme?

Why? Because Quod me alit, me extinguit "What feeds me, extinguishes me," can be found. It's from a play mostly attributed to William Shakespeare called Pericles, Prince of Tyre, which, in turn, was inspired by Apollonius of Tyre, a Latin text dating from the 6th century.

That hypothesis stated, if you ever get the good fortune of meeting Angelina Jolie, I wouldn't show off by mentioning the possible roots of her tattoo. Might not be the kind of food for thought that would sit too well with her, if you get my meaning.

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September 18, 2006 - 6:19am
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