Monday, May 7, 2012

Latin Alive !

Plures of lacum audimus quod utom utidie adveho ex Latin
Many of the words we hear and use daily come from Latin

Latin est a key ut English
Latin is a key to English

The first Latin I remember  hearing , (and speaking) was  when I was a  young girl attending daily and Sunday Mass  at St. Rose of Lima Catholic church  in Maywood, California when the Priest  would often  say during the course of the Liturgy, Dominus Vobiscum (The Lord be with you), and Altar Boys responeded, Et Cum Spiritu tuo (And also with you).   Then , the priest again, Oremus (Let us pray).

At that time, prior to Vatican II , Missals  were always printed with the Order of the Mass in Latin on one page, and in English on the opposite page.


My next experience with Latin was when I entered  Bell High School ,  and Mrs. Gerard taught that ancient language to  Freshman students who were only half interested in what she was teaching.   After all, Latin was considered a dead language.  Looking through memories eye, I remember Mrs. Gerard as a pleasant white haired lady who  seemed to love what she was doing, and delighted in showing her students slide pictures of her trips to Rome, and sharing her love of Latin.   She would periodically stop  her slide presentation to try to stump one of us when she asked a student at random  to name the building, place, object in Latin.   Let’s see.   First Declension or second Declension ?

Oh, how I wish I would have paid better attention !  Enough so to earn an A or B instead of a C.

What I do recall , and still recognize is how much of our English vocabulary  and Latin words have in common, especially in abbreviated form.   Exempli gratia:

A.D. Anno Domini  - in the year of our Lord
A.M. ante meridiem  -  morning (before midday)
P.M. post meridiem  - afternoon
B.A. Baccalaureus Artium  - Bachelor of Arts
M.A. Magister Artium—Master of Arts
Ph.D. Philosophie Doctor—Doctor of Philosophy
N.B. nota bene—note well
P.S. post scriptum—written afterthought
e.g. exempli gratia—for example
Pro tem. Pro tempore—temporarily, for the time
And my favorite, so well expressed by Yul Brynner in his role as King of Siam,
etc.  Et cetera—and other things

 Familiar Latin phrases :
Persona non grata—an unacceptable (or unwelcome ) person
Verbatim ac literatim—word for word  and letter for letter
Pro bono publico  - for the pubic good
Vice versa—changed and turned; turned about

State Mottoes:
Ditat Deus—God enriches (Arizona)
Regnant populi—The people rule (Arkansas)
Esto perpetua—May it be everlasting (Idaho)
Excelsior—Loftier (New York)
Dirigo—I direct  (Maine)
Montani semper liberi  - Mountaineers are always free  ( West Virginia)

Latin phrases are used in the Constitution of the United States:
i.e. Section 3 , dealing with officers of the United States pro tempore , means for the time; In Section 9, dealing with powers forbidden to the United States—the privilege of the writ of habeas corpus, making it mandatory that an accused person be brought to court to be told the reason for his or her detention.

The names of all our months come from Latin.  As do the planets, astrological signs, medical terms, musical terms and legal terms.

In her book , Latin Made Simple,  (Doubleday Made Simple, copyright 1992),  Rhonda Hendricks gives an overview of Latin literature writing  it is usually divided into six periods: The Early Period  prior to 80 B.C., The Golden Age—lasting from 80 B.C. until A.D. 14,  The Silver Age; The fourth period called The Patristic Age ran from the late second century through the fifth century. The major writers included the Church Fathers (patres). During this period the Romance languages were developing from local dialects of Latin. The fifth period , called the Medieval Period ran from the sixth through the fourteenth centuries. The sixth and final period  runs from the fifteenth century until the present day. It is called the Modern Period.

The author also writes, Although a classical language, Latin is vital and living—a pillar of our language, our culture, our civilization. Latin is a thread that connects us with our own history; if it were to snap, we would lose our relationship to that past.

Mrs. Gerard would be pleased . As writers, and lover of words , we should be pleased too, to know this language of  history continues to provide meaning and value in our literary life.

        ** For more Latin Phrases visit    


Jennifer Lamont Leo said...

I've joined a choir that sings a lot in Latin, so I've had to play catch-up on pronunciation. It's a beautiful language (far from "dead"), and as someone who's interested in the history of words, I'm interested in studying Latin more formally.

Anonymous said...

You not only give a person something new to think about but I feel I have learned something I can share with family and friends. Thank you for enriching my life.

Patty said...

Loved this! I, too, remember learning the Mass in Latin & think it's pretty cool that I can still recall so much of it! Thanks for a great refresher course on a very important source of our language today.