punkwalrus (punkwalrus) wrote,

Ad perpetuam rei memoriam

So, when I was a kid, I wanted to learn Latin. I knew it was a former "defacto" language (to later be replaced by French, then English) international language of science in Europe until the 17th century, as indicated by class, order, and phylum. It was the root of the Romance languages, and learning Latin was the key to learning French, Spanish, Italian, Portuguese, and Romanian. Besides, speaking Latin seemed cool and edgy.

But alas, no, my parents said I must learn Spanish. My school offered Spanish, Latin, German, French, Italian, Russian, and Japanese, but my parents said all of those were dead or dying languages, and determined that Spanish was the best route as far as usability. They turned out to be right, but I still wish they would have allowed me to take Latin.

My friend Neal took Latin, and sometime he described "declensions," which were noun cases, like verb conjugation, but it seemed so weird and foreign. I deduced on my own, and Neal later confirmed this, that with nouns being classified as such, the order of the words in a sentence became less important and used instead as emphasis. Many times I tried to find the root words of various things, but found I confused Greek and Latin constantly.

While I was in New Orleans, I picked up a Latin textbook from the 1960s. Last night I read through the first few pages, and found that all my years for trying to decode Latin roots made a few basic paragraphs completely transparent. I was stunned how many workds I could pick out or guess their meaning. I think most of my readers would also have an easier time of it than some poor 12 year old who never played D&D, wanted to be a paleontologist, or thought "dead languages" were "pretty damn cool."

For instance, take this phrase: Canis meus id comedit.

You probably could guess "canis" means dog, like in the word "canine." "Meus" sounds like "me." The words "id comedit" are a little harder. I know "comer" means "to eat" in Spanish, and you see it in words about food and eading like, "comestibles" means "edible things" as in food. So you'd think "Something to do with a dog eating something." "Id" sounds like "it," so if you were told, "this is a phrase used as an excuse by children," "My dog ate it," becomes very clear.

This is why Latin kicks ass. Later on, you can sound really snobby at all the legal affairs, because law uses a TON of latin phrases: habeas corpus, pro bono, bona fide, de facto....
Tags: childhood, languages, latin
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