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Subject:"Magnum Sal" - why not "Magnus Sal"?
Time:11:33 am
There is a very old salt mine in Wieliczka (near Cracow, PL) that is traditionally called "Magnum Sal" (often translated in Polish as "Wielka Sól" = "big salt").

My understanding is that "sal" is masculine, so I'd expect "Magnus Sal". Does anyone know why it would/should be "Magnum Sal"?

Am I confused about the Latin grammar here?
Is "Magnum Sal" simply incorrect and became entrenched in tradition?
Is it a corrupted version of a longer phrase (e.g. magnum metallum salis = big mine of salt) or something?

Google gives 5000+ hits searching for "Magnum Sal" Wieliczka
and only 14 hits searching for "Magnus Sal" Wieliczka
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filialucis
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Time:2010-06-17 11:11 am (UTC)
It's in Lewis & Short. Sal in the singular can be neuter as well as masculine. In the plural it's always masculine.

Hmmm... "metallum salis" looks funny to me, because "metallum" suggests metal ore. Would anyone else know whether the expression was actually used in Latin at any period? My dictionaries (L&S, and Smith & Hall for En-Lat) only give "salifodIna" for salt mine, which is feminine and thus wouldn't explain your neuter
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goulo
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Time:2010-06-17 11:21 am (UTC)
Aha, interesting that "sal" can be neuter AND masculine in the singular! All the sources I checked only had it as masculine, sigh. Thanks for the info! That would seem to clear up the mystery!

PS: I agree about "metallum salis" looking odd - it was merely a hypothetical stab in the dark to come up with something neuter that sounded like a vaguely plausible other possible explanation, and "fodina" is feminine. :)
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