Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Quid est hoc?

Just what is this anyway? I was recently asked if this passed grammatical muster.
Q: Quid est hoc?
A: Hoc est mensa.
My gut feeling is that it did, but why you wouldn't ask "quid est?" I don't know. The interesting thing that I've found is that in a Google search, it only turns up 85 times at thelatinlibrary.com—I know, not the greatest source, but it responds quickly and has zero extraneous garbage. You know who said "quid est hoc?" in antiquity? Cicero. And no one else. Or at least no one else bothered to write it down. The interesting thing is that when Cicero says it, it almost seems to be saying "Just really, what is this?" As if he were straining to believe.

So on that ground, "quid est hoc?" passes grammatical muster—but no one uses it in the sense of "what is this?" It is far more "WTF?"