Yesterday, when photos of prostitute Ashley Alexandra Dupré and her mother frolicking on the beach back home in New Jersey surfaced, we immediately became transfixed by her mom’s amazing 46-years-old-but-looks-like-a-20-year-old’s butt. What does she do? we wondered, as we dialed our Pilates instructor. Meanwhile, uptown, the Times’ Jennifer 8. Lee had looked at the photos and was also on the phone — although she was talking to classics scholars at city universities.
Lee was calling to ask about the meaning of Dupré’s belly tattoo, which reads “tutela valui” and has been the subject of much debate, since Latin words often mean multiple things. Back in March, The Wall Street Journal had said it meant “fair value,” but they were wrong, according to Columbia graduate student Eric Ensley. Turns out, Dupré is much smarter than that.
“‘Tutela’ is a ‘custodian, safeguard, defense’ — something like that,” he said. “It can mean a lot of things. ‘Protection’ is a good translation. ‘Valui’ means ‘I was strong,’ literally. This is the exact translation I can give you, ‘I was strong by means of a keeper, by means of safety.’… “I guess on some weird level, if you wanted to translate it into some modern sense of the word, You could say, ‘I used protection.’”
Okay, as far as we’re concerned, it might as well just say “genius.”
To Decipher a Tattoo, Caveat Emptor [City Room/NYT]