I am always disappointed when I have to do a Bad Latin post, but this time is especially tough for me because I really like Brooklyn brand Hayden-Harnett. They teamed up with Disney to produce a line of accessories inspired by the 70-year-old film Fantasia. Among these is the Veneficus Libri bag, a beautifully detailed design meant to look like a book. The name is an attempt at Latin, and is supposed to mean “magic book,” according to the description. This phrase is printed on the bag itself, as if the title on the binding.
When I first saw the bag, I wanted to give Hayden-Harnett the benefit of the doubt, and assumed that the phrase veneficus libri was an attested term meaning “book[s] of the sorcerer.” This would be fitting for a bag inspired by Fantasia with its “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” sequence. A cursory Google search confirmed that the phrase veneficus libri appears a lot on the web. I figured that veneficus was a fourth declension noun and libri was plural because there were several “books” in the tome in question.
When I looked it up, though, this idea was shot down. Veneficus is a first/second declension adjective that can be used substantively to mean “sorcerer,” so it can only be nominative singular. Realizing that the Latin was therefore “sorcerer of the book,” I looked further into that Google search, and found that the term only appears on websites devoted to magic and social networking games and the like, and doesn’t appear in a book or scholar search.
The source of this term is most likely our old friend, the online translator. Put “magic book” into one, and you get veneficus libri. I’d like to reiterate what Dennis said in his recent post, Good Psych, Bad Latin: Those who would like to use Latin in their movie, jewelry, comic, or whatever, contact a Latinist– it only takes a moment longer to contact us than to input something into an online translator, but the payoff is not having something absurd printed on your commercial product.
A gracious and witty response from Hayden-Harnett.