Illegitimi non carborundum: Don’t Let the Bastards Get You Down, Don’t Let Others Get the Better of Us

John Cousins
February 7, 2023
2 min read

Illegitimi non carborundum

This is a great quote in fake latin that says “Don’t let the bastards get you down.”

It originated early in World War II in British Army Intelligence. The mock latin phrase was adopted by US Army General “Vinegar” Joe Stilwell as his motto during World War II.

Its another great way of saying, Let It Go. Don’t poison your own experience more than you have to.

You will continue to suffer if you have an emotional reaction to everything that is said to you. True power is sitting back and observing things with logic. True power is restraint. If words control you that means everyone else can control you. Breathe and allow things to pass.

Sitting quietly for twenty minutes focusing on the in and out of deep breathing is a way to practice gaining emotional distance from our noisy thoughts. The pause between experience and our reaction makes all the difference in how we conduct our lives.

Don’t Over React

A caution on the flip side: don’t lash out and counter punch.

The best fighter is never angry.
― Lao Tzu

Our natural immediate reaction is to push back and protect ourselves. That can lead to saying hurtful things in the heat of the moment that we later wish we hadn’t. This poisons relationships. You can’t unring a bell.

Let things cool off before responding. Take a pause for the cause.

You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.

This is not a new or novel idea and was known as a trap to the ancients. Classical logic and rhetoric are concerned with persuasion through constructing and communicating proper and correct arguments. Logical fallacies identify a group of faulty arguments to be aware of so we don’t fall into the trap of using them or falling for them.

One of the most famous is the “argumentum ad hominem” or ad hominem for short. Ad hominem is Latin for “to the person”. It represents a pitfall in which an argument is countered by attacking the character, motive, or other attribute of the person making the argument rather than attacking the substance of the argument itself.

Argument and diversity of opinions can be beneficial if used properly. Positions need to be fluid and responsive to new information. Strong opinions weakly held. Everyone involved must be willing to change their mind. Argue for clarity, not to win.

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John Cousins
Author, Entrepreneur, & Teacher

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