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Unknown Unknowns?

by Andrew
(Alberta, Canada)


First, how would you put "unknown unknowns" together in written Latin? Context: As Rumsfeld used it (paraphrased a bit), "there are known knowns and there are known unknowns, but there are also unknown unknowns". In other words, how would the words fit together to identify knowledge which we don't realize that we haven't discovered yet.

Second, how would you translate "Refuse to do nothing" in written Latin? Automated translators gave me "Recuso efficio Nihilum".

(p.s. I would appreciate a comment on pronunciation if it's not too much trouble).

Thank you for your time.

Dear Andrew,

Thanks for a great question. For starters, here's a clip of what Rumsfeld said about knowns and unknowns:

Great stuff. In Latin, ignota are things unknown, while incognita are things not investigated or explored. So, "unknown unknowns" might be translated into Latin as ignota incognita.

As for "refuse to do nothing", try this: nega nihil facere.

If you are telling more than one to make such a refusal: negate nihil facere.

I thought I might take a stab at Rumsfeld's entire quote above. Here goes:

Sunt nota cognita, sunt cognita quae novimus; sunt cognita ignota, id est, sunt ignota quae certissimi nescimus; at quoque sunt ignota incognita, sunt ignota quae cognoscere nescimus.

There are known knowns, there are things we know that we know; there are known unknowns, that is to say there are things that we now know we don’t know; but there are also unknown unknowns, there are things we do not know that we don’t know.

I'll make an audio for you this weekend.



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by: Sharon

Great concept and great Latin application. Much appreciated!

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