WORDS-L ArchivesArchiver > WORDS > 2002-02 > 1012945530
From: "John Halsey Flannery" <>
Subject: [WORDS] Num? Me Vexo redux
Date: Tue, 5 Feb 2002 13:45:30 -0800
I appreciate John Holland's & Willard Solie's input.
I should point out that I am not a Latin Scholar.
The phrase probably originated circa 1973-1974 at the UW South Campus
Center, as a mock-motto, in the form "Num Me Vexo?". As I explained
before, the South Campus Center is located behind the UW Medical
Center/Hospital, & is used by medical, dental & pharmacy students.
Some of whom still actually study Latin!
The circumstances that gave birth to the Motto are explained in the
following messages from the 1990s:
1.) Mon Jun 27 15:31:53 1994:
[snip] for one of the truly bizarre uses of Latin anywhere. When the
South Campus Center was built
here about twenty years ago, it was embellished with a red, white, and
blue stained glass portrait of George Washington. For almost fifteen
years the Latin motto that accompanied it went unnoticed, until it was
reported (in the Seattle *Weekly*) in 1988. The revelation created a
stir at the time, even making it to the pages of *Time* magazine. The
motto, still *in situ*, still clearly visible (although some attempt
has been made recently to efface it), was eventually traced to a local
Latin teacher who concocted it as a practical joke when asked by the
designer of the stained glass for a few appropriate words. What he
came up with was NUM ME VEXO? This is the motto of Alfred E. Neuman,
the amiable little nerd of *Mad* magazine: WHAT, ME WORRY?
Paul Pascal, University of Washington
2.) Tue Apr 18 07:17:16 1995:
[written in response to a misstatement of the phrase as "que, me
[snip] I love that inscription, too. I hate to be a pedant, but the
Latin is actually "Num? Me Vexo?", the Num? asking a question that
expects a "no" answer.
BTW, this inscription is found in the South Campus Center of the
University of Washington. It is a lovely stained-glass representation
of Mr. Washington himself (as one finds him on the $1 bill), with the
above text in a rainbow formation above his head. It is well worth
seeing. (Sorry--I've been reading too much Herodotus of late.)
Every year or so there is a contest in the North Campus Center in
which people are invited to dechiper the Latin. Successful entries
win valuable coupons for bowling, among other things.
Who says the Classics are without benefits?
University of Washington.
My own view, is that "Num? Me Vexo?" (in that construction) is as
close to "What, me worry?" as we can get. However, "Quid, Me
Anxius Sum?" seems pretty reasonable also.
"What, me worry?" isn't exactly "good English", when 'what? I should
worry?' might be "better English". What does 'worry' actually mean?
It seems closest to 'fret'. We are dealing with nuances or degrees or
levels of concern.
|[WORDS] Num? Me Vexo redux by "John Halsey Flannery" <>|