AN extremely learned man, a friend of mine, chanced in the course of conversation to use the word pluria, not at all with a desire to show off, or because he thought that plura ought not to be used. For he is a man of serious scholarship and devoted to the duties of life, and not at all meticulous in the use of words. But, I think, from constant perusal of the early writers a word which he had often met in books had become second nature to his tongue. There was present when he said this a very audacious critic of language, who had read very little and that of the most ordinary sort; this fellow had some trifling instruction in the art of grammar, which was partly ill-digested and confused and partly false, and this he used to cast like dust into the eyes of any with whom he had entered into discussion. Thus on that occasion he said to my friend: “You were incorrect in saying pluria; for that form has [p. 445] neither justification nor authorities.” Thereupon that friend of mine rejoined with a smile: “My: good sir, since I now have leisure from more serious affairs, I wish you would please explain to me why pluria and compluria—for they do not differ-are used barbarously and incorrectly by Marcus Cato, 1 Quintus Claudius, 2 Valerius Antias, 3 Lucius Aelius, 4 Publius Nigidius, 5 and Marcus Varro, whom we have as endorsers and sanctioners of this form, to say nothing of a great number of the early poets and orators.” And the fellow answered with excessive arrogance: “You are welcome to those authorities of yours, dug up from the age of the Fauns and Aborigines, but what is your answer to this rule? No neuter comparative in the nominative plural has an i before its final a; for example, meliora, maiora, graviora. Accordingly, then, it is proper to say plura, not pluria, in order that there be no i before final a in a comparative, contrary to the invariable rule.” Then that friend of mine, thinking that the self-confident fellow deserved few words, said: “There are numerous letters of Sinnius Capito, a very learned man, collected in a single volume and deposited, I think, in the Temple of Peace. The first letter is addressed to Pacuvius Labeo, and it is prefixed by the title, 'Pluria, not plura, should be used.' 6 In that letter he has collected the grammatical rules to show that pluria, and not plura, is good Latin. Therefore I refer you to Capito. From him you will learn at the same time, provided you can comprehend what is written in that letter, that pluria, or plura, is the positive and simple form, not, as it seems to you, a comparative.” It also confirms that view of Sinnius, that when [p. 447] we say complures or “several,” we are not using a comparative. Moreover, from the word compluria is derived the adverb compluriens, “often.” Since this is not a common word, I have added a verse of Plautus, from the comedy entitled The Persian: 7
What do you fear?—By Heaven! I am afraid;Marcus Cato too, in the fourth book of his Origins, has used this word three times in the same passage: 8 “Often (compluriens) did their mercenary soldiers kill one another in large numbers in the camp; often (compluriens) did many together desert to the enemy; often (compluriens) did they attack their general.”
I've had the feeling many a time and oft (compluriens).