Learn Your Latin

One of my favorite details about Pope Benedict XVI abdicating is that the reporter who broke the story was able to be first with it because she knew Latin. The Pope first made his announcement in that language.

I send my daughter to a Latin school (the 5-year-0ld can already say the Apostles Creed in Latin and has named all of her animals according to Latin words). She could break news in the future.

But the story reminds me of all those things you study that you wrongly think you’ll never en…

  1. Fricosis Guy

    My Latin came in handy when delivering pizza to the rectory: “Domino’s Vobiscum!”

  2. Group Captain Mandrake

    Speaking of Latin, Winston Churchill said, “Naturally I am biased in favour of boys learning English; and then I would let the clever learn Latin as an honour and Greek as a treat.  But the only thing I would whip them for is not knowing English.  I would whip them hard for that.”

    Learning Latin (and Greek, if it’s available) is a good thing.  I was taught the former for a number of years, and it’s stuck with me.  My children studied Latin at school using the same books that I used back in the 1970s, and I found that I could remember almost all of it.  I attribute that to my excellent Latin teacher. 

    The only time I can remember a foreign language coming to my aid, and it wasn’t entirely unexpected, was when I was negotiating my way through El-Al security at Heathrow airport.  After a few exchanges in Hebrew, the agents decided that I wasn’t a threat and turned their attention to the other poor schlubs who were trying to make their way to the Holy Land.

  3. TheRoyalFamily

    One time I found a comic in Italian, which I was able to use my mediocre Spanish skills to somewhat decipher.

  4. Mark Wilson

    Mollie, I have a a friend who works at NASA, and yesterday my girlfriend and I were brainstorming names for her new dog.  She came up with “Sohcahtoa” and we couldn’t stop laughing.

  5. Owl of Minerva

    Back when I really knew my Latin as an undergrad, I went with some students and professors to England and served as translator to pretty much everything old there. Now, I can barely my way through the first few chapters of my old Wheelock’s…

  6. Grendel

    Interesting question but irrelevant:  I took four years of Latin in high school and majored in math and physics in college; I was expecting it (not that I cared).

  7. Bereket Kelile

    I can think of two instances where a language helped me out.

    The first is when I was watching the film Eat, Pray, Love (mistake, I know) and was able to pick up on the Italian being spoken because of its close resemblance to Latin. 

    The second instance is when I realized, because of my limited knowledge of Amharic, that the word for purse may have come from the French. They have a word “bourse” which I came across in a book I forget at the moment. In Amharic it’s pronounced a similarly to the Italian “borsa” except that it’s more like “boorsa.” 

    I have been studying Latin for the last three years or so, using Wheelock’s Latin. I’ve been making my way through the Loci Immutati section. I was wondering what books other Ricochetti have used. I’d love to hear how you learned Latin. Maybe we can start a “Ricochet Latin Club” and discuss things Latin.

  8. Manfred Arcane

    Teaching your kids Latin should be grounds for charges of parental abuse, IMO.  (had three or four years of it in high school and consider it a BIG waste of time.  The only interesting aspect about it was exposure to Caesar’s Commentaries on the Gallic Wars, and I guess, a little bit of Virgil (The Aeneid).)  Learn useful languages like Spanish well enough to travel and speak with the natives, is my conviction.

    As far as real world dividends (pun intended) to learning math, have you heard of the “rule of 72″?  Works like this: Take your 401K investment rate of return (say 10%) and subtract off the rate of inflation (say 3%) = ~7% and divide this into 72 (~10).  The result is the number of years before your investments will double in value in real terms (i.e., after discounting for inflation)  Pretty useful, eh?

  9. Aaron Miller

    Sadly, the Latin phrase I have shared most often is one which I probably should not share.

    Oh, what the heck! Here it is. :)

    Futue te ipsum et caballum tuum.

    If you can translate that, don’t.

  10. Aaron Miller

    By the way, I remember arguing with my high school Latin teacher about whether or not Latin is truly a dead language and, consequently, whether academic pronunciations or Church pronunciations are correct.

    The academic position seems to be that the Church doesn’t bear the same weight as a nation as a language community.

  11. Crow
    Bereket Kelile: Maybe we can start a “Ricochet Latin Club” and discuss things Latin.

    Salvete, Discipuli!

    Great things about Latin: you border on violating the Ricochet CoC just by counting to 10.

    On a serious note: if you want to learn anything of the world beyond your own place, learn a foreign language. And if you want to communicate with anyone beyond your own time, learn Latin.

  12. Group Captain Mandrake
    Crow’s Nest

    And if you want to communicate with anyone beyond your own time, learn Latin. · 7 minutes ago

    True, but I would add at the very least Greek (Homeric and Attic), Biblical Hebrew, Aramaic and Old Norse.

  13. Jordan Wiegand

    I’d argue that learning Latin is more valuable than knowing Latin.  Not to say that knowing it isn’t valuable, just that the intellectual rigor of studying Latin is greater than the rigor of other academic disciplines around today.  It’s simply quite hard to learn to read the stuff, and requires real intellectual growth.  More growth than occurs in your typical four year degree plan nowadays.

    I’m a Latin and Greek teacher so my opinions are naturally biased, but I’d like to think that education was more effective when everyone learned something really hard to learn.

  14. Grendel
    Aaron Miller: By the way, I remember arguing with my high school Latin teacher about whether or not Latin is truly a dead language and, consequently, whether academic pronunciations or Church pronunciations are correct.

    The academic position seems to be that the Church doesn’t bear the same weight as a nation as a language community. · 19 minutes ago

    I recently attended an Extraordinary Form Missa Cantata (at St. Mary’s in Washington, DC’s Chinatown).  At breakfast afterwards there were several priests, and I remarked how at all the EF masses I had attended (as distinct from the Latin mass of my youth) the celebrants seemed to say the Latin with an Italian accent.  I was informed that that is indeed the official accent for Latin in the Mass.

    I’m not about to go all “Weyni, Weeki, Weeky, Kaisar and Kickeroh”, but I have my reservations.

  15. Lamont Cranston

    It’s not Latin or math–but the arcane minutiae of maritime insurance.

    In January of 1995 the Great Hanshin Earthquake struck Kobe, Japan. I was in Tokyo, working for a corporate client. The Japanese subsidiary had grown from a sales office in Kobe–most of the older employees had family in danger.

    The day after the quake, the sales manager and customer service manager–both remarkably fluent in English–asked for my help in understanding the arcane legal jargon of a maritime insurance policy. We’d had several 40′ containers of specialty chemicals off-loaded from a ship right before the quake struck–it looked as though (since the containers had been off-loaded onto the quay) the maritime policy would not pay.

    But–three years before I’d done a short project with AIG, the biggest issuer of maritime casualty policies in the world. I recognize the standard policy form–flipped to the second page, and pointed to the “on-carriage” part of the form. So long as the claim was made to the insuror within 24 hours of the loss, the policy was good.

    The client saved roughly $800,000. I was the flavor of the month.

  16. Foxman

    I’m an engineer.  It is amazing how little of my math training I use.

  17. Grendel
    Aaron Miller: Sadly, the Latin phrase I have shared most often is one which I probably should not share.

    Oh, what the heck! Here it is. :)

    Futue te ipsum et caballum tuum.

    If you can translate that, don’t. · 40 minutes ago

    Yeah!  Well ite senex tuus!  Desideras tu frustum mei?

  18. Lee

    Knowing any second language is helpful when travelling in Israel. You are generally within two degrees of language from being able to communicate with anyone there. It’s true both because Israel has a lot of immigrants and it draws visitors from all over the world. Many of my interactions were in high-school level French with an occasional smattering of Spanish. Now that I can speak some Dutch, it would presumably be even easier. Granted, you aren’t having deep philosophical conversations in each other’s second languages but it gets the job done.

    I never had the chance to study Latin in school, but I’ve been making an effort to teach myself for the purpose of eventually using it when time travel is perfected (or, you know, invented).

  19. She

    Not quite an answer to your question, Mollie, but an experience I had in 1971-1972 that I’m not sure would be possible today:

    I loved Latin, and took three years of it in public high school.  I wanted to take a fourth year when I was a senior, but there weren’t enough kids interested for the district to schedule the class (there was me, and three young men).

    Our Latin teacher VOLUNTEERED to stay after one day a week for 90 minutes.  We met after school, on Wednesdays, and had class.  Then we were assigned a bunch of homework and translation until next time.  The school district sanctioned it.  We got credit.  

    I think fondly of Latin teacher Mr. Williams,  Principal Mr. Strall, and the Bethel Park High School of 1972 for this and many other reasons.

    Could this happen today?  I doubt it.

    On the subject of foreign languages coming to our aid, I guess my favorite phrase of that sort, which I frequently invoke and try to live by, was one of Dad’s favorites:

    Illegitimi Non Carborundum.

    Stet.

  20. She

    Double post.

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