A Light-Hearted Plea to the Godly

Have you noticed, as I have, a certain tendency among the godly to use Latin where plain English would be much better, and often, alas, using it incorrectly? I don’t mind people coming up to me and saying, ‘Salve!’ (though ‘hello’ would do just as well). I do wince if they say, ‘Salvete!’ as though my name were legion; while greeting me with an ‘Ave!’ makes me tremble in my socks, for reasons they are probably blissfully unaware of. But being wished a happy birthday ‘ad multis annos’ sets my teeth on edge, and the muddling of genders and case endings in other phrases induces apoplexy, especially when I see them on Twitter and Facebook. Latin is a beautiful language, and deserves to be used intelligently. I don’t quite share Christine Morhrmann’s view that it is the perfect liturgical language (Greek would always get my vote), but it is for me the language of prayer, of poetry and history, and I’m very glad I was taught to read, write and speak* it at an early age. It has made me realise what I don’t know β€” always a good reason for sticking to English, and even there I sometimes have problems, as the comments section of this blog will testify (sigh).

My simple rule is this: avoid Latin tags if you can, but if you must use them, make sure you’ve got them right. Otherwise, as Bro Duncan PBGV was heard to say this morning, Cave monialem!

*Yes, reader, I was taught to speak Latin by a Spanish Latin mistress who gave her classes in Latin from start to finish. I couldn’t manage it now.

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18 thoughts on “A Light-Hearted Plea to the Godly”

  1. Well said. My exposure to latin was schoolboy lessons allied to serving at mass. I can`t claim to remember much of it nowadays, but my lack of understanding doesn`t stop me wishing that I`d paid more attention in those days πŸ™

  2. lol, I had to look up the meaning for ‘Cave monialem!’ Latin is beautiful to listen to, but so is Welsh, I can’t speak that either ! Fortunately, God can and He interprets better than Google. πŸ™‚

    On a more serious note, I have a friend who can barely read and write our own language because of lack of schooling as a child. So, I try whenever possible to tell her the meaning of interpretive words without demeaning her.

    Also, a happy mother, whose baby has somewhat picked up, but is still in hospital, wrote this week “Yay its gne well dne baby gir”
    (thank you for your prayers Sister)

    It’s a different language in itself that many of today’s youngsters speak, one they are developing through the Internet too, far removed from Latin.

    • Language must change because it is living. What I don’t like is the mangling of Latin (or any other language) through laziness or pretension. Having said that, I’m sure I’m guilty of both on occasion. πŸ™

  3. I learnt Latin at school but have forgotten most of it now – It is still useful for reading tombstones though! Mea culpa!

  4. I quite agree. Though my father was a Latin scholar and he tried very hard to help me with my homework, the gift of languages is not one I am blessed with. So when people do throw in Latin phrases, Google translate does its best to let me know what they are trying to say!

  5. Hopefully you don’t mind ungodly Latin being used ad nauseam, inter alia, et al et cetera…? Pretty hard to uphold the status quo otherwise πŸ˜‰

    (PS: I did A Level Latin & Greek, but our teachers didn’t do much in the way of speaking it, Deo Gratias! As I’m bilingual in Italian and pronounce Latin that way, my teachers acknowledged my accent was a good deal better than their oh-so English vowels!)

  6. I am attending Latin classes at the local U3A and at the age of 50, I am the veritable baby of the class. We have one lovely lady who is 92 and as sharp as a tack at Latin, which she had studied to A level equivalent at school.

    It is such a shame that so many children never get the chance to learn Latin or Greek at all at school πŸ™

    • Bro Duncan PBGV asks me to say he expects to be traduced in the monastery but not on the blog. Of course he said that! He has the most eloquent, multi-lingual eyes, and I’ve become expert at interpreting them. πŸ™‚

  7. Apologies in advance, but I’ve always loved this nonsense….

    Civile si ergo
    Fortibus es in ero
    vatis inem
    causen dux
    gnoses mari
    Thebe trux.

    dug out of the depths of memory, probably hopelessly full of spelling mistakes.

  8. I have long regretted my choice of French and German in secondary school. French has occasionally been of use, German seldom, but the lack of Latin has been with me for most of my life. And do not say it is not too late to learn – take it from me, it is!

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