Illegitimi non carborundum
Illegitimi non carborundum is a Latin phrase meaning "Do not make illegal copies of this disk." It is also sometimes mistaken to mean "fuck the system" by people without a sense of humor.
The phrase first appeared on copies of the Microsoft Windows 95 installation CD, as a reminder to consumers that they should not make illegal copies of that disk. The warning was part of Microsoft's 1996 "Breaking the Law Is Illegal" awareness campaign. It was thought that consumers would respect the warning if it was in Latin, because anything written in Latin is more impressive. However, it was eventually discovered that most Windows users don't speak Latin, at which point the warning was translated into English. This translation came too late, however, and by early 1996 unlawful illegal disk copying was already rampant. Disks with the English-language warning are valued by collectors for their rarity, because by the time they were released, nearly 100% of the available Windows 95 CDs were illegal copies.
The phrase has several variations:
- Illegitimi non carborundum.
- Illegitimi nil carborundum.
- Nil illegitimi piratus.
- Nil illegitimi carborundum.
- Discus non carborundum.
While all of the above are technically proper slang Latin, only the first was in common usage by the mid 16th century. It was originally carved onto Roman discus balls used by athletes, warning competitors not to make "illegal copies of this discus."
The term Illegitimi is misunderstood by English speakers to mean "illegal", but it is actually the Latin name for polycarbonate, a transparent plastic-like material that was used by the Romans to make the olympic discus. Modern compact discs are still made from polycarbonate. The gerund "carborundum" should have required a dative ("illegitimis," "of this disc"), but historians believe that ancient Roman athletes used the slang in this way because it rhymed better in their raps. [Nota bene: in the first line of this paragraph we encounter the word"it" after the first coma, in this situation "it" seems to refer to "Illegal", which is not true. It shows later in the text that you mean the third word "carborundum", and it is this word that has a relation with polycarbonate, but the way the sentence is written is clumsy and induces the readers into errors.]
Carborundum comes from the latin word for copying, "carborus", which refers to the carbon paper (papyrus carborundum) used by the Romans when duplicating signatures on official documents.
The incorrect translation "Don't let the bastards grind you down" originated from the use of grinding systems to repair scratched or damaged CD media. Because software pirates used these devices to restore CD-ROM media instead of purchasing legal replacements (as required by law), software vendors would confuse the copyright warning as a notice that they should not use grinding devices.