June 10, 2008

Everyone's talking about Ashley Dupre's tattoo that reads, in faux Latin: "tutela valui."

Dupre was Eliot Spitzer's favorite prostitute, so people want to understand the words. But like those ridiculous Chinese characters fools have permanently inked on their carcasses, Dupre's tattoo botches the language. The Daily News delves into scholarly interpretation of the whore's bikini line:
Tutela, which is related to tutor, has to do with a protector or guardian. Valui appears to be a past form of the word strong.

"So I guess you would say it means, 'I have a strong patron' or 'I have a strong keeper,'" said Doug Machle, assistant to the chairman in the classics department at the University of Washington.

"Or, actually, it's more like, 'My guardian was strong.'"...

Daniel Nodes, a classics professor at Ave Maria University in Florida, translated it as "I've been well and remain that way because I have protection."

Mark Buchan, a classics professor at Columbia, took a different tack, musing that it could mean "safe haven."
The Columbia professor gives Ashley credit — even as she tattoos herself with bad Latin — for seeing herself (or her body part) as the strong one and having a sense of humor about sex.

UPDATE: Jim Davila says the prostitute is getting a bum rap.


Anonymous said...

'My guardian was strong.'"... OR
My pimp is tough.

paul a'barge said...

Perhaps she's a Christian.

J said...

"Medical professors disagreed with their colleagues in the classics department, explaining the it wasn't faux Latin, but faux Roman numerals. "It's an ICD-9 code" said one professor. He declined to specify which one, but stated, "Basically, it's an STD warning label".

I'm Full of Soup said...

My Latin is fuzzy so I had to venture a guess.

"Tutela" perhaps derived from tukus or dupa referring to her ass aka moneymaker.

And "Valui" refering to money or value.

So "Tutela Valui" could mean "Ass For Sale".

Bob said...

I always thought that a little road sign down by the pubis saying SLIPPERY WHEN WET would be appropriate.

Beldar said...

Does anyone else have a hard time believing that's her mother with her in those pictures?

I'm Full of Soup said...


If that is her mother, this could have been a heckuva family business.

William said...

It's the Latin phrase for laser surgery at mid-life.

Ron said...

Let's all get Pig Latin haiku tattoos!

Daryl said...

So this is what happens to all of those people who learn half-assed latin in prep schools. I always wondered how they ended up.

Ann Althouse said...

"Let's all get Pig Latin haiku tattoos!"

That's the new idea for a blog contest... Just propose the tattoo. You don't have to get it. And make it a tattoo fit for a high-class prostitute. So don't use the u-word.

Henry said...

Reminds me of this:

I have four sisters beyond the sea,
Perrie, Merrie, Dixie, Dominie;
And they each sent a present to me,
Petrum, Partrum, Paradisi, Temporie,
Perrie, Merrie, Dixie, Dominie.

Hoosier Daddy said...

Does anyone else have a hard time believing that's her mother with her in those pictures?

Yeah but mom or not, she's damn hot. Better than Ashley IMHO.

Hoosier Daddy said...

How many Althouse regulars sport any ink?

I'll confess I have two.

Wince said...


If I'm not mistaken, I think that's Stiffler's mom.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Eliot Spitzer had one that read
Vīdī, Vēnī, Visa

Hoosier Daddy said...

Eliot Spitzer had one that read
Vīdī, Vēnī, Visa

Well since Ashley brought Spitzer down, she should get a new one called Vae Victis

Eric said...

tattoos? Nah, you can't certain kinds of missions with those.

Tatoos are for fashion victims.

Andy Johnson said...

Dog Latin that could be construed as "Total Value"... I think this is a case of too much knowledge getting in the way of understanding.

BlogDog said...

Getting Latin wrong can be annoying. I asked a friend (who would know) what the Latin for "Fortress of Solitude" would be. He told me. So I had a "welcome" mat made that reads "Arx Solitudinus."
So, of course, when he visits me for the first time after i get it, he tells me that it's actually "Arx Solitudinis."

Chip Ahoy said...

Pig Latin. Haiku. Let's see, in 5,7,5

ashca upuntfray

izay uhthay only away

u tay emitray

[uday I itgay an ollyoplay?]

Chip Ahoy said...

But how 'bout just distorted Latin for high-end call girl?

Touchus expensivus.

M per horo

Caveat STD

Sir Archy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Sir Archy said...

Multi famam, conscientiam pauci verentur.

To Professor Althouse.


As the Ghost of a Gentleman, dead these 250 Years and more, I may tell you that in my Day, bad Latin was commonly to be met with inscrib'd upon Publick Monuments, one of which, I suppose, Mrs. Dupré hath now become.

If you would have had a Line or Two of Latin, 'twas usual to wait for Death, and have it trac'd upon upon your Gravestone; or, if you were well-to-do and had more Vanity than Sense, you could have your Figure cut in Marble, not omitting a favourite Motto, a choice Epigram of Martial, &c. Such things were to be inscrib'd upon the Plinth of your Statue, and not written on your Arse, as Mrs. Dupré hath done, the Result of the barbarick & unwholesome modern Vogue of Tattooing.

I may tell you, Madam, that in my Day, if a Whore bore any unnatural Mark upon her person, 'twas sure to be a Sign of Distemper, which should have serv'd as a Jolly Roger to any who would navigate the Sea of Love in such an hir'd Vessel.

By way of closing, I should also tell you that Mrs. Dupré bears an uncanny semblance to the notorious Harlot of my Day, Moll Hackabout, here shewn in a Picture of Mr. Hogarth's. She is being met here after her Journey to London by the infamous Keeper of Bawdy-Houses, Mrs. Needham. That no Good came of this may be seen in the rest of Mr. Hogarth's Pictures of "The Harlot's Progress." You may also notice such Marks of Disease as begin to appear on Moll Hackabout's person, and that they were not Ornaments writt'n in the Latin Tongue.

Knowing that your Theatre of Topicks (as I call it) and your Writings are entirely more wholesome Ornaments of the English Language, I remain,


Your humble & obt. Servant,

Sir Archy

Revenant said...

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi!

paul a'barge said...

There's a u word?

Who knew?

paul a'barge said...

What's that freaky tat on her right arm?

JorgXMcKie said...

vidi, vici, veni?

From Inwood said...

Althouse Blog

I'm a law professor, and sometimes I write about law. Other times I'm Seinfeldian; I write about nothing.

Hope you get to the bottom of this, shall we say.


"Vīdī, Vēnī, Visa!"

That was lapidary!

Ecgbriht said...

The tattoo, I think, is an abbreviated version of "In tutela valui" and can best be translated as "In guardianship I flourished." Tutela means, among other things, the general idea of guardianship. Here it's in the ablative case with the preposition omitted. Valui is the first person singular, past tense form of valeo, which means "I flourish."

That's right, Blog Dog, Arx Solitudinis rather than Solitudinus. Back when almost all high school students studied Latin, they were taught to pronounce solitudinus as English-speakers would expect, but words ending in "is" like solitudinis with the "is" pronounced "ees." Later generations who tried to use Latin often got into trouble if no one had taught them that. A good example is a phony usage of lawyers, "de minimus." Lawyers took the the legal maxim "de minimis lex non curat," (the law can't bother with little things), and abbreviated it to "de minimis." Then, instead of just saying "That's unimportant," they pompously started saying "That's de minimis." Then, descending into low comedy, they started saying "That's de minimus." De minimus is a meaningless pairing of Latin words, just gibberish.

blake said...

mostalay ikelay
eingbay inay ovelay
issingkay xtraay

Hucbald said...

Carpe valui.

comatus said...

It's the ablative of means.
"I have prospered through learning."

LordSomber said...

"Beware of the scabbard."

Translate that into Latin.

ZZMike said...

Kudos to Sir Archy (even though that's Greek) for a well-writ note. The idea of Ms Dupre as a "Publick Monument" is delightful to the senses. I would know, Sir, of your other presences on this wide-spread nexus.

One question raises its dubious head: how is it that Classics Masters can come up with such disparate translations of such a simple saying?

At least, two of you recognized the ablative of means. (Language scholars, note the difference in meaning of that last sentence with the comma removed - as with this one.)

(I had to tack on the hyphenated phrase to that last to avoid a tedious recursion.)

ecbriht: "De minimus is a meaningless pairing of Latin words, just gibberish." Wouldn't they read "about little things"?

I think lawyers like Latin because first, the Law has been using Latin for centuries, and second, it makes them seem ever so clever, and third, it's the lawyers' argot - the thing that separates Them from Us. Just like Cockney slang.

Ecgbriht said...

ZZMike: "ecbriht: 'De minimus is a meaningless pairing of Latin words, just gibberish.' Wouldn't they read 'about little things'?"

They would if the words were de and minimis rather than de and minimus. But they aren't. The phrase is gibberish. It might just as well be de minimize or de minnie the mermaid.

Ken said...


Ha, pretty good.

Catholicity said...

beware (of) the scabbard:

cavere vaginis

wrongly translated as "a cavernous sheath"