Riverbank Ruminations

Observations From the Banks of the Technology River

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi

Sometimes you need to go old school

From Dictionary.com:

Luddite (noun)

  1. a member of any of various bands of workers in England (1811–16) organized to destroy manufacturing machinery, under the belief that its use diminished employment.
  2. someone who is opposed or resistant to new technologies or technological change.

I make no claim to being either 1 or 2 above but sometimes I find it troubling how technology has taken over learning and information transfer. Last month I wrote about trying to get to the bottom of a Latin phrase “Semper ubi sub ubi”. When I submitted the blog for publication I lamented the fact that it was hard for me to find out what it actually meant online.

Fortunately networking still works to help solve problems. Jim Abbott at Ashton has a wide variety of contacts which happened to include a teacher (Chris Barton at University School). Some of his comments are below:

Ive always enjoyed passing along the semper ubi sub ubi line to the boys, but it has no grammatical basis. If you said that to an ancient Roman, they would have thought you were crazy…”


The closest article of clothing was called a subligaculum, which in modern terms means a pair of shorts or a loincloth. It is said to have been the only undergarment in early times. The family of the Cethegi who wore a toga over a subligaculum continued this practice throughout the Republic. Candidates for public office and men, who wished to pose as champions of old-fashioned simplicity, wore a subligaculum. At (best times) the subligaculum was worn under a tunic or was replaced by it.

source: http://www.classicsunveiled.com/romel/html/clothmen.html

So my research gave me INTERULUS for underwear and Chris provided SUBLIGACULUM as another option. In either case is seems that PBS led me astray with their merchandising. I have since found some websites that own up to the literal translation “Always where under where” and rely on the homophonic aspect (look it up) of the translation to make the joke. In any case there is a lesson to be learned here.

While technology makes a vast amount of information available to us, we need to have some way to validate what we are being told. Online information is not vetted in the same manner as was done once upon a time back in the old days of Encyclopedia Britannica and other print medium. I would suggest that common sense should play a part in the intake of information but sadly that seems to be in short supply these days.

Again from Dictionary.com:

common sense (noun)

  1. sound practical judgment that is independent of specialized knowledge, training, or the like; normal native intelligence.

While the accuracy of a sweatshirt translation has no lasting effect on our lives, taking online information at face value can have some very real and damaging effects. Various types of propaganda can sway public opinion; phishing emails can cause you to give up personal information; get rich quick schemes can relieve you of your money. Common sense does not depend on technical proficiency.

Unfortunately today the quick answer/fix is expected and taking time to analyze and get second opinions has fallen by the wayside. While I am not advocating a return to typewriters and telegraphs, there are some old school ways that still have value. 

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