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Ubi res coget

Pliny on kinds of oak trees (Naturalis Historia 16.6):

Distinguemus ergo proprietate naturaque et, ubi res coget, etiam Graecis nominibus.

Therefore we will distinguish them by their properties, their natures, and, when the occasion requires, also by their Greek names.

Well, I’m not too happy with this rendition; it’s clunky. Not sure how to tidy it up offhand. I’ve been using ‘distinctive property’ to render proprietas lately, but that is redundant sitting next to ‘distinguish’. And natura is one of those ungainly words I have yet to get a good handle on.

Ubi res coget (where circumstances compel) is one of those things where you’d expect to have a good, set counterpart in English, but I couldn’t produce one offhand.

One interesting thing about this line is that it shows not everyone was willing to rush to Greek for vocabulary; Pliny is reluctant to unless absolutely necessary. Or at least, so he says.

[For proprietas.]

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