"O tempora, O mores!"

Joanne M. Despres jdespres at MERRIAM-WEBSTER.COM
Mon Aug 1 13:21:11 UTC 2005

According to M-W dating policies, the 1675 quote theoretically
COULD be the first occurrence of the phrase as an English
quotation. Of course, M-W doesn't enter whole quotations as
English lexical items, so the issue is kind of academic. (We do list
phrases like "O tempora o mores" in the "Foreign Words and
Phrases" backmatter section, but they are neither dated nor
treated as fully naturalized locutions.)

But the point is, if we were dating this phrase as fully naturalized English loan
from Latin, its first occurrence would be its earliest use in an
English context where it could be reasonably assumed that an English speaker unfamiliar with Latin
understood its meaning.  The Ciceronian coinage would be considered
its etymology.

For what it's worth (probably not much),


On 30 Jul 2005, at 14:51, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> I don't think so.  Cicero said it first.
> JL
> Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender: American Dialect Society
> Poster: Laurence Horn
> Subject: Re: "O tempora, O mores!"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> >Here's a quote of timeless relevance, now rescued from the mists of
> >time for your scholarly delectation :
> >
> >1675 _The Woman turn'd Bully_ (London: T. Dring) I i Dost thou
> >come from the University, and charge us with Debauchery? O tempora!
> >O mores!
> >
> >JL
> >
> But isn't the token from Cicero's denunciation of Cataline something
> of an antedate?
> Larry
> (also wondering about the first cite of "O tempura, o morays" and
> other variants)
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