De minimus non curat lex


Today is a typical west country summers day, which in essence means it is raining too hard to be outside.

And so, it’s time to parse some Latin.

I chose de minimis non curat lex, as back in the day, I was involved with the legal profession (oh yes), and not only is it a legal maxim, but also comes bundled with a handy limerick.

There was a young lawyer called lex,
who had very small organs of sex.
When done for exposure,
he said with composure,
De minimis non curat lex.

The standard meaning given is :

The law doesn’t concern itself with trifles.

So how do we get there?

De is a preposition which followed by the ablative means ‘concerning’.

Minimus, a, um is an adjective meaning smallest and can also (as is common in Latin) be used as a noun.

Declining minimus in the masculine plural (nominative-ablative) gives:-

minimi, minimi, minimos, minimorum, minimis, minimis.

showing us that the ablative of minimus is minimis.

De minimis translates as ‘of or concerning small things).

I’ve added things so that this makes sense in English, and this is legal;) where a Latin adjective is functioning as a noun.

Lex, legis (law) is a feminine noun, and declines as follows:-

Lex, lex, legem, legis, legi, lege.

Now safe in the knowledge that lex is a nominative, we can now be sure that it is the subject of the verb curat. The verb Curare has various meanings including ‘to trouble oneself about’.

It is a regular transitive verb (i.e. it takes a normal object) which conjugates in the present tense as:-

curo, curas, curat, curamos, curatis, curant. (I trouble myself about, you trouble yourself about …)

So, our final rendering is:-

Of small things the law doesn’t trouble itself.

Pax, besos i baci.


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