Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Latin Words and Phrases Worth Knowing About: tollere

The verb tollere (to pick up, take away) is a fairly common word. But it occurs in a few quotations worth knowing about.

In Saint Augustine's Confessions, he tells the story of how, after years of spiritual exploration and wrestling with his own moral failings, one day he heard the voice of a a boy or a girl, he could not tell which calling out repeatedly from a nearby house:

"Tolle, lege!" Pick it up, Read!

Augustine decided, since children were not usually heard to say such a thing, that it was a divine sign. So he grabbed and opened to what turned out to be St. Paul's Epistle to the Romans 13:13-14:

"Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying, but put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof."

Saint Augustine considered that the moment he truly converted.

Another use of the verb tollere worth knowing about is the phrase:

abusus non tollit usum. The abuse does not take away the use.

Essentially, this is the Latin version of "Don't throw the baby out with the bath water."

tollit appears in a number of legal Latin phrases, such as:

consensus tollit errorem, Consent obviates error (in a judicial proceeding)

Praesentia corporis tollit errorem nominis, et veritas nominis tollit errorem demonstrationis. The presence of the body cures the error in the name; the truth of the name cures an error in the description. (Bacon's Max. Reg. 25.)


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