What Do All Those Latin Phrases Mean in Reticence? (Custard Protocol Behind the Magic)

So in Reticence one of the love languages between Percy and Arsenic is, in fact, another language: Latin.

In this post I’m going to talk all about it, Gentle Reader. There shouldn’t be any obvious spoilers, but you can save this post to return to later (or as you read) if you’re super worried.

Percy has always been a fan of mumbling to himself in Latin. Arsenic comes along and not only understands him, but gently teases him in the same language.

From Reticence

Rue looked at Quesnel and then Primrose. “Are they flirting?”
“It’s like watching dirigibles crash midair, filled with hot air, slow and horrible yet inevitable,” said Quesnel.

Latin, It’s What’s for Flirting!

Because I am a tricky bit of baggage, I don’t always translate all the phrases in the text for you, so I thought I would put them all here, for you to reference if you like…

  • Panem et circenses “bread and circuses” ~ a commentary on basic human desires, i.e. food and entertainment
  • auribus teneo lupum “holding a wolf by the ears” ~ a popular proverb in Ancient Rome meaning an unsustainable situation like “holding a tiger by the tail.” From Phormio by the Roman playwright Terence (c.161 BC).
  • Hanniabl ad portas “Hannibal is at the gates” ~ danger is upon us
  • vox nihili “the voice of nothing” ~ an utterly pointless statement, the equivalent of “don’t speak nonsense”
  • barba non facit philosophum “a beard does not make a philosopher” ~ don’t judge a book by its cover
  • ex nihilo nihil fit “nothing comes from nothing” ~ to achieve something, work hard
  • hic manebimus optime! “here we will stay, most excellently!” ~ stand your ground!
  • corvus oculum corvi non eruit “a crow will not pull out the eye of another crow” ~ basically “honor amongst thieves” (one of my personal favorites)
  • omnia iam fient quae posse negabam “everything which I used to say could not happen, will happen now” ~ I don’t know the exact English proverb for this, but I love the sentiment, sort of like “nothing surprises me anymore”
  • helluo librorum “a glutton for books” ~ basically a bookworm
  • in libras libertas “in books, freedom” ~ a little bit like “knowledge is power”
  • alis volat propriis “he flies by his own wings” ~ he dances to the beat of his own drummer
  • Homo sum humani a me nihil alienum puto “I am a human being, so nothing human is strange to me” ~ a motto advocating respect for people and cultures that appear different from your own, from The Self-Tormentor by Roman dramatist Terence.
  • felix culpa “happy fault” ~ basically the Roman way of saying serendipity or happy accident (AKA my whole career)

Some other stuffs

Stratocumulus lux is latin but it’s not a Latin phrase, it’s a meteorologic term. See wikipedia’s article on the subject. It’s a type of cloud formation and Percy thinks Edo looks like it.

A Word on Italicization

Now, I did keep Latin italicized in Reticence, where as the rest of the foreign language words in the book are not italicized.

This is a personal choice. Over the course of my career I stopped italicizing foreign languages for the reasons outlined in this post.

Why I Stopped Italicising Non-English Languages

But in Reticence I wanted to emphasize the Latin, and there is something different about a dead language, so I kept Latin phrases italicized.

What can I say? I’m a contrary woman.

Yours (in Latin, tua),

Miss Gail

dum spiro spero

Meanwhile, the first 3 are on sale (USA eBook)… 

  • Did you more behind the scenes info? This stuff goes to my Chirrup members, because I love them bestest. Sign up here.
  • Not into newsletters? Get only new releases by following Gail on Amazon or BookBub!


Reticence: The forth and final Custard Protocol Book!


USA & Canada: Amazon print & digital & audiobook | Kobo | B & N | Apple | Audible | Other

UK digitalprint | Kobo UK | Apple UK coming soon I hope

Amazon Overseas DE | FR | AU 

Kobo Overseas DE | FR | AU

Bookish and proper Percival Tunstell finds himself out of his depth when floating cities, spirited plumbing, and soggy biscuits collide in this delightful conclusion to New York Times bestselling author Gail Carriger’s Custard Protocol series.



Your Infusion of Cute . . .

Scientists built a robot octopus that moves its tentacles like the real thing

Your Tisane of Smart . . .

7 Books About Women Warriors Throughout History

Your Writerly Tinctures . . .  

20 Inspiring Writing Podcasts to Subscribe to Right Now

Book News:

The Reading Chick says:

“Even though How to Marry a Werewolf is a novella, Carriger is able to build a backstory for Faith that gives her character depth making her three dimensional.”

Quote of the Day:

“I’m turning my life in a new direction: Horizontal.”

~ Borderlands overheard in the store

Your Moment of Gail


“I suspect it may be like the difference between a drinker and an alcoholic; the one merely reads books, the other needs books to make it through the day.”

(Interview with The Booklovers blog, September 2010)” ~ Gail Carriger

Questions about Gail’s Parasolverse? Wiki that sheez!


Posted by Gail Carriger

4 Responses

  1. Suzii said:

    When will Reticence be available in international iBookstore? I am in Australia and am eagerly awaiting this release.

  2. Rhiannon Lynn said:

    There are some of us who wonder about how (precisely how) Lord A managed to fake his death as Alexander of Macedon; and how Saturation managed to kill off the vampires — was it all in one day? More gradually? Did they dissolve into dust? (unlikely, but hey, 🙂 ) Did they burst into flame? (poor Lord A’s wardrobe — not fireproof?) Or something more weird?

    We’d love to know, even if it was only a tiny short story or something only available to the Chirrup-readers and limited time to read it, perhaps. Maybe set in Egypt? (as, does it remove the GBP???)

    (I know there’s legal doo-dahs in place, but a few hints would be fun….)

© 2024 Gail Carriger
Site built by Todd Jackson