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 — 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.