Using Titles as Nouns in Latin

Recently, some friends of mine and I were discussing a possible vocabulary for playing D&D in Latin. I suggested that the names of spells would have to be declinable if you’re going to have a ‘scroll of’ or ‘potion of’ that spell. It was pointed out to me that of course in English you don’t have to do this. You can just take the name as it is and use it as a noun. Of course, in English, this generally doesn’t make much of a difference – there aren’t many accusative markers left in the language. But we don’t listen to The Whom. We don’t watch Dr. Whom.

What is the rule in Latin for just using a title in as if it were an indeclinable noun?

Subject to correction by more knowledgeable Latinists, I think the rule is “You can’t do that there here”.

Latin usage typically declines titles and even proper names, as well as common nouns, according to their grammatical role in the sentence. For instance, the name of the mathematician Leonhard Euler is attested not only in the usual nominative form “Leonhardus Eulerus” but also in the ablative case (“auctore Leonhardo Eulero”, “by the author Leonhard Euler”), as well as in the genitive case (“Leonhardi Euleri Opera postuma”, “the posthumous works of Leonhard Euler”) and the accusative (“in epistula ad Leonhardum Eulerum scripsit”, “he wrote in a letter to Leonhard Euler”).

AFAICT, in Latin, if you want to talk about somebody by name or by title, you need to be able to decline them properly. Even if you’re using a name or title borrowed from a foreign language, you would tack on some approximation of a Latin case ending to preserve grammatical agreement.

Title can have two meanings. Herodes Antipas Rex Iudaeorum (Herod Antipas King of the Jews) would take a genitive (Herodis … Regis…), an accusative (Herodem… Regem…), etc. In this case, by “title” you are meaning formal epithet denoting sociopolitical role, used in apposition to the name, and delining in parallel with it.

But “title” can also mean “the name given by its creator to a work of art, official document, etc.” as in “Caesar’s De Bello Gallico” or “the Papal bull Ineffabilis Deus”. And it’s my understqaqnding that phrases used as titles are regarded as indeclinable as regards their role in a sentence (though internal declension may exist, as in “the writ Quo Warranto”). I suspect this would also be true with a Latin or pseudoLatin phrase adopted as a D&D or Hogwartian spell.

Yes, sorry. I do mean title in the sense of the name of a work, not as an honorific.

I’m not actually talking about borrowing Latin to be used in a D&D game played in English. In that case, I’d just use the nominative. I’m talking about playing the entire game in Latin. Can you say:

Pōtiō Vīrēs Gigantis

where ‘Vīrēs Givantis’ is the name of the spell, or do you have to say:

Pōtiō Vīrium Gigantis

Suppose the spell name was an imperative, like ‘Morere’. Can you say “Cantō ‘Morere’.” as if the imperative were a noun?

Oh yes, now I see what you mean (thanks Poly). Well, I think the answer might be that book titles, for example, in Latin generally have the word “book” right in them, like Liber vaccae (“Book of the Cow”) or Liber de caelo et mundo (“Book about the heavens and the earth”).

So generally, you would leave most of the title in the genitive or ablative or whatever it happens to be, and just decline the governing noun “liber” appropriately.

The latter sounds much closer to correct, AFAICT. You will just need to construct all your spell, potion, etc. names so that they include the proper governing noun. (If the potion you mention is for enlarging people, wouldn’t you want a gerundive in there instead of a genitive phrase like “virium gigantum”?)

This much I had already worked out. What I’m asking is the further question of what you do when that won’t do? If a work is called Īnsomnis in Seattlum, do you really need to use the passive voice to say you’re watching it without inflecting the title?

The term ‘Giant Strength’ could be read that way, except that if you play D&D you know the spell gives the recipient the strength of a creature called a ‘giant.’ For Potion of Healing, I like a gerund such as Pōtiō Medendō.

No, you need to give it a correct Latin title like Taenia de Insomnia in Seattla (or whatever the ablative ending of “Seattle” ought to be), and then you can say you’re watching Taeniam de Insomnia in Seattla.

In Russian, you decline everything, even foreign-language words. (A fun pursuit is talking in what is essentially English, but in a heavy Russian accent with all the words declined.)

Yet, book titles are not declined. But you have to decline something, so you always say “book” first, followed by the title. If you don’t decline anything, you have a construction that is broken, because it has lost its semantics.

All in all, seems identical to the Latin.

Having said all that, actually not declining your spell name would perhaps work. You’ll come out with a slightly different phrase, though. Instead of {potion of spell “spell title”} you can simply have {potion “potion title”}. Just stick a declinable word immediately before the title, and you’re good.

Actually, English does decline these words. “The Who’s early career…”

Perusing Vicapaedia, it looks like they sometimes present the title undeclined and append “appelatur”. But in other cases they decline it, though it’ll be in italics.

The names of the spells in D&D were not chosen under a concern for such issues, so translating them should focus on finding a natively Latin way of expressing the same thing, which includes making sure it’s obvious which words are the fulcrum of the declension.

Gosh, that does sound like fun. I’m only sort of kidding. But not every word, surely. If you have a noun in the nominative followed by say a genitive, you only need to decline the nominative part, right?

D’oh! You’ve got me there.

Well, it’s still a matter of dispute whether the -'s is a real declension, or just a clitic.

The Vulgate Bible adds case endings to some names, but not to others. I randomly chose I Samuel and paged through it for a few minutes. The names David, Goliath, and Saul appear undeclined throughout. I spotted a few instances where Ionathan had case endings, though. Haven’t found a pattern.

Yeah, in my rambling I didn’t explain this. You either put a noun in front to decline, or you can sometimes decline the title itself. It can’t be a complex or little-known title, as doing this is sort of a hack/informal shorthand.