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In a book from year 1836 I found this abbreviation "s.m." but couldn't find any clue regarding its meaning - perhaps it is no longer used

Context:

"Sie fragen mich um meine Ansichten über die Frage, die jetzt so vielfach die Gemüter bewegt, über "Emanzipation"; [...] Nach dem neugewonnenen Begriffe des Judentums sind Sie, lieber Benjamin, irre daran geworden. Ich achte Ihre Skrupel und teile Ihnen meine Ansicht s.m. mit."

The whole book is in Fraktur except latin words (e.g "incognito" "opus operatum") which are in regular font and this "s.m." is also in regular font which stands out in the sentence.

Any ideas?

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  • I'm curious, what book are you quoting from?
    – marquinho
    Mar 1 at 8:25
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    The book is "Neunzehn Briefe über Judenthum" by RSR Hirsch.
    – daniel
    Mar 1 at 18:02

2 Answers 2

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Conventionally, "s.m." stands for "salvo meliore" or "meliori" – an expression of caution, or humility, in putting forth one's opinion.

Meyers Konversations-Lexikon (4th ed., 1888; 6th ed., 1905), under the lemma "S", presents "s.m." as an abbreviation of "salvo meliore":

s. m. = salvo meliore (lat.), des Bessern unbeschadet

Later, MKL has a lemma devoted exclusively to "salvo meliori" with the much clearer explanation:

Salvo meliōri (sc. judicio, lat.), mit Vorbehalt eines bessern Urteils (eines andern), Redensart, um anzudeuten, dass man Belehrung gern annehme.

Salvo meliōri (i.e. judicio, lat.), with the reservation that a better assessment is possible (by others); an expression indicating that one would gladly accept being corrected.

Just as the phrase suggested by @tohuwawohu, it is a Latin expression, which fits nicely with the print in "regular" Antiqua in your book, and an adverbial phrase, which suits the syntax of your sentence.

The phrase suggests that the writer is putting forward their personal, humble opinion qua opinion, fully aware of its potential inaccuracy and with all due caution. They are open to revision or to stand corrected, should a better position come along.

In the context of your book, the author is putting forth a personal opinion (Ansicht) and chooses to stress that they are not making a claim to absolute correctness – they wouldn't even be putting it in writing, were it not for Benjamin's polite request to hear it ("Sie fragen mich um meine Ansichten").

I respect your scruples and share with you my view, though I might be wrong.

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  • I think this option is more plausible for two reasons, firstly although the author uses latin expression he does so only very rarely, so it's less likely he'll replace a common German adverb with latin. Secondly, the answer he gives is not straightforward but ambivalent and skeptical (toward emancipation), and is based on an opinion he regarded throughout the book as a "hyphothesis", so, the saying "right away" slightly contradicts his otherwise very humble style.
    – daniel
    Mar 1 at 0:06
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Most likely, it's "sine mora", which means "without delay", "immediately" ("unverzüglich" in german). The usage of a regular font for that abbreviation indicates that it's a latin phrase.

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  • I think this might actually be it, other German abbreviations in the book are still in Fraktur (z.B d.h usw.) and the writer does answer without further ado. Also the position in the sentece does look like an adverb. Many thanks!
    – daniel
    Feb 28 at 21:42
  • +1 for the interesting and plausible conjecture. Though I believe that it stands for "salvo meliore", a conventional abbreviation. It's also attested in Meyers Konversations-Lexikon. I'm curious about sources for "sine mora" though.
    – marquinho
    Feb 28 at 23:01

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