Latin Is Not Dead Yet

Thursday, May 11, AD 2017

Latin is a language,
Dead as Dead Can Be,
First it Killed the Romans,
Now It’s Killing Me.

All are dead who spoke it.
All are dead who wrote it.
All are dead who learned it,
Lucky dead, they’ve earned it.

My bride and I teach CCD to fifth and sixth graders.  Last night was the last CCD class for the year and we gave a small impromptu lesson on Latin to the kids during the class.  They seemed to enjoy it.  Time to revive learning of the traditional language of the Church.


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  • I have been torturing my co-workers at “Neutrons ‘R Us” with Latin for decades now. I usually arrive into work first in the morning and make the coffee, affixing to the coffee flasks post-it notes labelled with the days of the week in Latin so that everyone will know the coffee has been freshly made:


    And when we work weekends (remember, you like your nuclear-generated electricity on weekends):


    And from time to time I teach either nuclear systems training (for boiling and pressurized water reactors) or nuclear software QA for (a) embedded software in digital instrumentation and controls, or (b) analytical codes for reactor engineering. Word etymology has become such fun, especially with the young millennials recently graduated from college who really don’t know what English words and phrases mean, like Commercial Grade Dedication, Quality Assurance, Requirement Specification, etc. It is as though I spend much time teaching not nuclear-related matters, but basic English word meaning. Such is the result of today’s liberal progressive feminist Academia! In ullo evento, gaudeatis! (PS, there are a few Greek words below).

    To take, grasp, receive, accept, undertake, admit

    To loosen again

    Not the same

    Ad + Securus
    To, towards, next to + safe, secure

    Trade, traffic, commerce

    To mold, shape, fashion, form

    To consecrate, devote, commit

    To fail, desert

    To describe, draw, mark, trace out, copy, transcribe, write down

    To mark, point out, trace out, outline, describe

    Docere + Mens
    To teach, show, point out + Mind, reason, intellect, judgment

    To wander, go astray, make a mistake, vacillate, err

    Step, position

    To look within

    Soundness, chastity, integrity

    Plumb line, level

    Manus + Mens
    Hand + Mind, reason, intellect, judgment

    μετά ‎+ ὁδός
    After + way, motion, journey

    Level flat surface

    To proceed, advance, appear

    Character, nature, characteristic, distinguishing quality

    To carry back, report

    To require, seek, ask, need, miss

    To see / consider / look at again

    Specere + Facere
    To look at or see + To make or do

    Earthen pot filled with water in which metals were tried

    Tractus + Habilis
    Having been drawn, dragged, held + Handy, easy to manage

    To verify, confirm the truth / authenticity, show to be true

  • Thank you, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus;
    I was not so good in Latin but as you have demonstrated here, the Latin language gives one a vocabulary and comprehension of words unlike any other language. It is the basis for the Romance languages, Italian, Spanish and French
    At one time it was the only language spoken in the universities of Europe. About 40% of the Polish tongue is straight from the Latin.
    Again, Lucius Quinctius Cincinnatus, your exposition of the Latin is brilliant

  • Homeschoolers, the ones who tend to go for things “Classical” at least, are already reviving Latin, as well as Greek. Memoria Press has been leading the charge, and their items are very user (parent/student) friendly, as well as solid (reprints of Henle’s are available for advanced students. Ironically, I bought my hard bound set–all four volumes, unused–in a bookstore in Tokyo.) The last I heard, the numbers of students who have been taking the National Latin Exam has been increasing each year. The graph is here:

  • I’m under the impression that studying Latin assists in organizing one’s thoughts for oral/written communication and advances logical thought processes. Obviously, I took Spanish.

    Does anybody have the Latin word for “taxes?” I have googled but can’t seem to find a good one.

    Anyhow, you don’t resort to Latin to show up liberals. They are far too stupid. So stupid that they don’t realize they’ve been shown up. Smugness/arrogance are merely symptoms of stupidity for which there is no cure.

  • For T. Shaw, this may have already been posted here at TAC:

    Also, from William Whittaker’s [Latin] words:

    vectigal, vectigalis N N 3 4 N [XXXCX]
    tax, tribute, revenue;

    tributum, tributi N N 2 2 N [XXXCX]
    tax, tribute;

    portorium, portori(i) N N 2 4 N [XXXCX]
    port duty; customs duty; tax;

    inlatio, inlationis N F 3 1 F [EXXCP]
    |contribution/pension; tribute/tax; offering/sacrifice; petition; offer (oath);

  • I have had no instruction in Latin, but I love it anyway. The greatest Catholic hymns are in Latin. A massive amount of the English language comes from Latin and most people don’t know it. The preface to the University of Chicago Spanish English dictionary rightly points out that Latin is not really dead. Castillo Spanish is simply a modern form of Latin. The Church in the West, rightly referred to as the Latin Church, gave glory to God and still does in Latin. It is our birthright and duty to know enough Latin to worship God.
    A favorite poem from Hilarie Belloc.. Wherever the Catholic sun does shine, There’s always laughter and fine red wine At least I’ve found it to be so Benedicamus Domino.
    Veni, vidi, Deus vicit…Jan III Sobieski.

  • Thanks, Gaius Lucius!

    How does “Dulce Tributum Inexpertis” work as a canned response to liberals constant demands for higher taxes?

  • Dulce = sweet (nominative singular neuter 3rd declension)
    Tributum = tribute, tax (nominative singular neuter 2nd declension)
    Inexpertis = to or for the inexperienced or untried (dative plural masculine 2nd declension)

    Sweet tribute for the inexperienced! I like it, T. Shaw!

  • It’s made a comeback at the two local public high schools. Both my children are taking it, and surprisingly, quite a few others . Unfortunately most of the diocese high schools don’t offer it. But they offer Chinese. Can’t make this stuff up.

  • A major reason for our homeschooling our children is to teach them Latin and Greek (and, if possible, a bit of Hebrew). We are very far from alone in that.

    However, Latin is not altogether absent from the public schools. It’s offered in our area. The wife of one of my colleagues is a high-school Latin teacher. Her classes are permanently oversubscribed.

  • Shows also the utility of French. Without knowing much French, one can look at a French text and recognize the meaning of so many words. Our English is a blend of the Anglo-Saxon in place in 1066, medieval French a,d Latin, Plus words taken in from other nations owing to trade with many countries. Not to forget the Greek that flows in owing to it being the language of philosophy.

  • My Finnish wife once had a tape produced by a Finn: Elvis in Latin. I believe it must have been Dr. Ammondt covers. Here’s a sample. (And you haven’t lived until you have heard “Achy Breaky Heart” in Finnish.)

5 Responses to At Last, Jingle Bells in Latin

A Latin Smackdown in Tombstone

Saturday, August 9, AD 2014

Tombstone Movie Poster

Tombstone is one of my favorite Western’s of all time.  The story line and plot is strong and engaging.  The actors chosen for their parts excelled in their characters, going so far as to even lose weight to represent the lean man of the wild west.  Attention to detail was of the up-most where filming was done in the actual Birdcage Theatre, saloons, and even Tombstone itself.

The film’s main scene is the infamous gunfight at the O. K. Corral, but it is the Ringo-Doc Holliday confrontation that is emblazoned in my memory.

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Narcissism in Music (or, “How Gregorian Chant can Save the World”)

Friday, May 6, AD 2011

Last week National Public Radio ran a story called “Narcissism on Rise in Pop Music Lyrics.” It opened up with,

On this very day in 1985, the number one song on the Billboard Top 100 was…”We Are the World” (“We are the world. We are the children.”)  Fast-forward to 2007 when Timbaland’s “Give It to Me” featuring Nelly Furtado topped the charts: “…love my a$$ and my abs in the video for ‘Promiscuous.’ My style is ridiculous.”

So more than two decades ago, we were holding hands and swaying to a song of unity, and these days, we’re bouncing to pop stars singing about how fabulous they are.  Psychologist Nathan DeWall has had the pleasure of listening to it all for research, and he found that lyrics in pop music from 1980 to 2007 reflect increasing narcissism in society. And DeWall is an associate psychology professor at the University of Kentucky.

Dr. DeWall proceeded to explain:

I was listening to a song that, really, one of my favorite bands, Weezer, had on one of their albums recently, and it’s called “The Greatest Man That Ever Lived,” and I kept wondering, who would actually say that out loud?  “I am the greatest man that ever lived. I was born to give and give and give.”

The ironic thing is it’s a song about how I’m the greatest person in the world, but it’s to the tune of “‘Tis A Gift To Be Simple,” which is a song about humility. And so what I wanted to do, instead of relying on self-report measures of personality like narcissism, I wanted to actually go into our culture, our cultural products, which are tangible artifacts of our cultural environment. And so, for that, I thought maybe song lyrics would be a very good jumping-off spot.

What we found over time is that there’s an increasing focus on me and my instead of we and our and us. So, for example, instead of talking about love being between we and us and us finding new things together, it’s mostly about how, you know, for example, Justin Timberlake in 2006 said, “I’m bringing sexy back. Yeah. Them other boys don’t know how to act. Yeah.”

There is no doubt that DeWall is correct.  Pop music is becoming more narcissistic.  The broader, age old question is: Does art imitate life, or does life imitate art?  The answer is probably some of both.  Our culture is increasingly narcissistic.  In the spirit of the NPR article, which was about music, I wish to propose a possible antidote for narcissism: the liturgy, specifically liturgical music.

Unfortunately, we must first distinguish between music that might be heard in any given liturgy and liturgical music, properly speaking.  While the Catholic Church has been plagued with bad versions of the four-hymn sandwich for decades, the fact remains that Holy Mother Church has given us a liturgical hymnbook: The Graduale Romanum,  In this book, one will find the ancient Gregorian chants.  But what many will be surprised to find is that the Church has given us specific chants for every Sunday of the year in the places that we currently sing “hymns.”  For any given Mass, there are prescribed chants for the Introit (think here of the “Opening Hymn” you are used to hearing), the Gradual (“Responsorial Psalm”), the Offertorio (“Offertory”), and the Communio (“Communion Song”).  Most of these date back more than a thousand years.  Of course, in the Graduale Romanum, one will find the chant written in Latin.  However, vernacular versions of these exist.  What is key is that the liturgical rubrics, while they permit hymns, call for a preference given to these chants.  Vatican II itself held that the Gregorian chant tradition should enjoy a “pride of place” in our liturgies.

Why do I see this as an antidote for narcissism?  The surest way to deal with this problem is to give people the sense that they are not the center of reality, nor are they the source.  The Cartesian turn to the subject has flipped classical metaphysics on its head so that people come to view reality as what is in their own minds rather than what their minds encounter on the outside.  The liturgy is a reality that is given to us, not one that is created by us.  In fact, it is in the liturgy itself that we find our own fulfillment.  When we go to Mass, we participate in reality itself, something that is much bigger than us.  If we see the Liturgy as something that we fit into rather than something that fits into our lives, we can come to understand that we are not the center of reality: God is.

The problem is, as has been observed on several observations over the past decade, there is an increasing narcissism even within the liturgy itself: both priests and people come to think that the liturgy is something that can be created and recreated with the fickle winds of changing culture.  In fact, the lack of narcissistic language in the new translation of the Roman Missal has been pointed out in comparison with the current, defective translation.  Currently, there are several places in the texts that seem to order God to do certain things and to give a primacy to the people over the divine.  The new translation, being more faithful to the Latin, has sought to correct many of these errors.  What remains to be fixed is the same problem in the hymns that are often chosen for Sunday worship.  Many of the modern hymns focus on man rather than God (think here of “Gather Us In,” or the ever-elusive “Sing a New Church Into Being”).  Quite simply, these hymns are self-centered rather than God-centered.

Contrast this with the use of the Graduale Romanum.  These chants have been given to us by the Church, each carefully constructed around sacred texts in order to serve as a sort of lectio divina for the readings of the day.  Indeed, when Gregorian chant is properly performed, it seems as if it is not of this world.  Part of that is due to the inherent structure of the music, for chant lacks a strict meter (though it has an internal rhythm of its own).  Unlike a hymn, which marches forward towards a climactic conclusion, chant allows the listener to rest in contemplation, a mirror of the eternity which we, God willing, will experience someday.  But another part is due to the words, which become primary (unlike modern pop music, where the words are often a later add-on to an already existing rhythm/chord structure).

Perhaps the most important point, however, is the fact that the music of the Mass inevitably (forgive the pun) sets the tone of the entire celebration.  It stands to reason, then, if we employ a music that is provided for us by the Church (not to mention encouraged by the rubrics), then the people will better understand that the liturgy itself is given and not created.  If they come to understand the liturgy, which is the objective center of reality, in this manner, then they will come to see that they are not the center of reality.  Thus, my rapid fire, probably incomplete, but hopefully coherent, argument that an antidote for the rise in narcissism is Gregorian Chant.  Save the liturgy, save the world.

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