Dusty Phrases

Hi! Welcome to “Dusty Phrases.” You will find below an ancient phrase in one language or another, along with its English translation. You may also find the power to inspire your friends or provoke dread among your enemies.

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Nemo me impune lacessit 


No one assaults me with impunity

This Latin phrase sounds a bit like a threat. Perhaps fittingly, it’s the motto of the Kingdom of Scotland. From Wiki:

Nemo me impune lacessit (No one assaults me with impunity) (Latin pronunciation: [ˈneː.moː meː imˈpuː.ne laˈkes.sit]) is the motto of the Kingdom of Scotland and was the Latin motto of the Royal Stuart dynasty of Scotland from at least the reign of James VI when it appeared on the reverse side of merk coins minted in 1578 and 1580. It is the adopted motto of the Order of the Thistle and of three Scottish regiments of the British Army. The motto also appears, in conjunction with the collar of the Order of the Thistle, in later versions of the royal coat of arms of the Kingdom of Scotland and subsequently in the version of the royal coat of arms of the United Kingdom used in Scotland. It has been loosely rendered in Scots as Wha daur meddle wi’ me? (in Scottish Gaelic Cha togar m’ fhearg gun dìoladhpronounced [xa ˈt̪okəɾ ˈmɛɾak kuɲ ˈtʲiəl̪ˠəɣ] (listen)). It is also alternatively translated into English as No one can harm me unpunished.

According to legend, the “guardian thistle” (see Scotch thistle) played a vital part in Alexander III, King of Scots‘ defence of the Kingdom of Scotland against a night-time raiding party of Vikings under King Haakon IV of Norway, prior to the Battle of Largs (1263): one or more raiders let out a yell of pain when stepping on a prickly thistle, thus alerting the Scots. In the motto “No one harasses me with impunity” (Latin: Nemo me impune lacessit), “me” was therefore originally the thistle itself, but by extension now refers to the Scottish regiments which have adopted it.The modern form of the motto was used by Francesco I, Duke of Milan and had been used in Britain on the colours of the Scottish Royalist officer John Urry during the English Civil War. It was also used by the Parliamentarian propagandist Marchamont Nedham as the motto for his newsletters.Another traditional source appears in the form of a Scots proverb, “Ye maunna tramp on the Scotch thistle, laddie”, this being immortalised in marble by Glasgow monumental sculptors James Gibson & Co. for the Kelvingrove International Exhibition of 1888. The phrase “Wha daur meddle wi’ me?” also appears in a traditional border ballad entitled “Little Jock Elliot“, which recalls the exploits of a 16th-century Border Reiver (“John Elliot of the Park”), with particular reference to an infamous encounter in the summer of 1566 with James Hepburn, 4th Earl of Bothwell, the third husband of Mary, Queen of Scots.The French city of Nancy has a similar motto, Non inultus premor (“I cannot be touched unavenged”), also a reference to the thistle, which is the symbol of the region of Lorraine.

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