VARRO believes that dimidium librum legi (“I have read half the book” ), or dimidiam fabulam legi (“I have read half the play” ), or any other expression of that kind, is incorrect and faulty usage. “For,” says he, 1 one ought to say dimidiatum librum ('the halved book'), not dimidium, and dimidiatam fabulam, not dimidiam. But, on the contrary, if from a pint a half-pint has been poured, one should not say that 'a halved pint' has been poured, but a ' half-pint,' and when one has received [p. 281] five hundred sesterces out of a thousand that were owing him, we must say that he has received a half sestertium, 2 not a halved one. But if a silver bowl," he says, “which I own in common with another person, has been divided into two parts, I ought to speak of it as 'halved,' not as 'a half': but my share of the silver of which the bowl is made is a 'half,' not 'halved.'” Thus Varro discusses and analyzes very acutely the difference between dimidium and dimidiatum, and he declares that Quintus Ennius spoke, in his Annals, with understanding in the line: 3
As if one brought a halved cup of wine,and similarly the part that is missing from the cup should be spoken of as “half,” not “halved.” Now the point of all this argument, which Varro sets forth acutely, it is true, but somewhat obscurely, is this: dimidiatum is equivalent to dismediatum, and means “divided into two parts,” and therefore dimidiatum cannot properly be used except of the thing itself that is divided; dimidium, however, is not that which is itself divided, but is one of the parts of what has been divided. Accordingly, when we wish to say that we have read the half part of a book or heard the half part of a play, if we say dimidiam fabulam or dimidium librum, we make a mistake; for in that case you are using dimidium of the whole thing which has been halved and divided. Therefore Lucilius, following this same rule, says: 4
With one eye and two feet, like halved pig,and in another place: 5 [p. 283]
why not? To sell his trash the huckster laudsAgain in his twentieth book it is clearer still that Lucilius carefully avoids saying dimidiam horam, but puts dimidium in the place of dimnidiam in the following lines: 6
(The rascal!) half a shoe, a strigil split.
At its own season and the self-same time,For while it was natural and easy to say “three and a half elapsed,” he watchfully and carefully shunned an improper term. From this it is quite clear that not even “half an hour” can properly be said, but we must say either “a halved hour” or “the halt part of an hour.” And so Plautus as well, in the Bacchides, 8 writes “half of the gold,” not “the halved gold,” and in the Aulularia, 9 “half of the provisions,” not “the halved provisions,” in this verse:
The half an hour and three at least elapsed,
At the fourth hour again. 7
He bade them give him half of all the meats;But in the Menaechmi he has “the halved day,” not “half,” as follows: 10
Down to the navel now the halved day is dead.[p. 285] Marcus Cato, too, in his work On Farming, writes: 11 “Sow cypress seed thick, just as flax is commonly sown. Over it sift earth from a sieve to the depth of a halved finger. Then smooth it well with a board, with the feet, or with the hands.” He says “a halved finger,” not “a half.” For we ought to say “half of a finger,” but the finger itself should be said to be “halved.” Marcus Cato also wrote this of the Carthaginians: 12 “They buried the men halfway down (dimidiatos) in the ground and built a fire around them; thus they destroyed them.” In fact, no one of all those who have spoken correctly has used these words otherwise than in the way I have described.