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January 7, 1983

Translation of Latin

Author Affiliations

Lubbock, Tex

JAMA. 1983;249(1):21-22. doi:10.1001/jama.1983.03330250017016

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To the Editor.—  While reading the editorial on paleopathology by Eve Cockburn, MA, and Theodore A. Reyman, MD (1982;248:472), I was surprised to find that the motto of the Paleopathology Association—mortui viventes docent—was inaccurately translated into English as "The dead are our teachers." While I am aware of the current attitude in some academic circles of attempting to make the classical languages more relevant by permitting looser and more colloquial translations from the classics into English, I can see no justification for doing so in this instance. The literal translation, "The dead teach the living," while being more linguistically accurate also has the literary merit of preserving the paradoxical quality present in the original tongue.Since one of the aims of paleopathology is "the clarification of cultural and medical history," I hope that I can support the endeavors of the Paleopathology Association by providing this clarification of the