Thursday, January 7, 2010

Stephen Colbert's new Latin motto

How about that new set on "The Colbert Report"? There's plenty of new detail for viewers with high def signals to enjoy, including a Latin motto engraved underneath the big "C" on Colbert's fireplace.


It's been a while since my high school Latin classes, but I was able to find the words, "Videri quam esse," online. It's a backward version of North Carolina's state motto, "Esse quam videri." That phrase means, "To be, rather than to seem to be." So Colbert's inversion translates to, "To seem to be, rather than to be." Sounds like an appropriate motto for someone who coined the word "truthiness."


  1. Anonymous said...

    Watching the Colbert Report I noticed the phrase carved in the fireplace mantle. My knowledge of Latin is rather limited and I thought Videri meant "see", and thought it said "to see is to be"- so I guess my knowledge is zip!

    "To seem to be,rather than be" is the true essence of Stehen Colbert. He is so convincing in character that most people forget that he is ACTING-his truthiness seems to be..
    He couldn't have picked a more apt motto.

  2. Anonymous said...

    Videri is a form of the verb "to see" but it is in the passive form.

    A more literal translation would be "To be, rather than be seen as"

  3. Anonymous said...

    The last post correctly translates North Carolina's motto ESSE QUAM VIDERI, as "To be, rather than be seen as." But Colbert reverses it to VIDERI QUAM ESSE, so "To seem to be, rather than be" is the correct translation of the phrase on his fireplace.

  4. Anonymous said...

    I am a classicist who just saw this on a professional list. Love it. The original statement is in Sallust's
    discussion of the stern old Roman Cato Uticensis "esse quam videri"
    roughly, he preferred being [a good man] to looking like one.

  5. Anonymous said...

    okay so last week he said a random latin phrase, and then a few shows later Jack White was on and said a latin word. Both times no explanation was given though Colbert did follow up with a 'Some of you out there got that.' There was no other context given.