Tuesday, October 10, 2006

About a dead language redivivus

I’ll be honest, the title for this blog wasn’t my first choice. When the other Headington councillor first offered to help me shuffle my superannuated (by his standards) way into the third millennium, he held out the possibility that I could be in vino veritas. That would be my style – and would probably reflect my state when posting late at night. But somehow that didn’t happen. I can only assume that it’s already been bagged by AA blogging backsliders or some other distinguished outfit.

At this point, and before I go any further, I should probably enter a caveat for the sake of the vast majority of the world for whom Latin is a dead language with significantly less chance of breaking out of its coffin than Uma Thurman in Kill Bill II. In one of my other lives, away from politics and the needs of Headington, Latin happens to be the main language of the books that I research. I confess it: Latin’s my second tongue. Which may leave you wondering which is my first.

I share with you – and only you, it’s to go no further – that nugget because it would only be natural for some to be sitting there and thinking ‘what a poseur with that de haut en bas manoeuvre'. In short, who can blame you if you’re about to splutter the e-acute word. And to élitism I intend to return. But my point is that Latin touches all of us, from the jeunesse dorée to hoi polloi. With some state schools recognising Latin is a good way to teach grammar skills, it’s not the preserve of the privileged. And a phrase like ‘in vino veritas’ isn’t hard to understand, if we only think laterally – first word, English, second word sounds like wine, third word, might that have something to do with verity? In wine, the truth. Or you can’t lie as well when drunk. How true. Our venerable vernacular is suffused with Latin (like this sentence). Those who haven’t learnt a word of the lingua franca can still have fun with it. I need no further proof of this than the posting on her blog of one who dons the imperial purple of New Labour: no Latin to her name, but she can still make a rather good joke, replacing the moribus of this blog with moribund.

But I digress. I was here to give the real translation and explanation of de moribus liberalibus. Then, eventually, we will get to politics and the e-acute word. But it seems I’ll just have to post again – probably when I’m viticulturally inspired.

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