The Right Coast

Editor: Thomas A. Smith
University of San Diego
School of Law

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Latin is great
Tom Smith

I have two sons in high school, one taking Spanish and one Latin.  The sentences for translation, vocabulary and so on in the textbooks vary considerably.  I exaggerate only slightly:


1.  Please tell Juan to recycle the plastic.
2.  Henry's mother is going to the political rally.
3.  The labor union was organized and everyone was happy.
4.  By travelling to South America, Robert broadened his perspective.
5.  Let's foment a violent revolution against the capitalist oppressors.


1.  The centurion bravely slaughtered the barbarian.
2.  The batallion invested the hill fort by digging a trench around it and flinging stones upon the Gauls with their catapaults.
3.  The doughty lad caught the wild horse and tamed it.
4.  Having burnt the Carthagian ship with Greek Fire, the trireme captured the survivors and enslaved them.
5.  The soldier was at peace because he knew his duty.

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Tom Smith


Well, your boy taking Latin will be able to get this pun:

British general to British Foreign Office: Pecavvi.

Posted by: sam | Oct 27, 2008 4:59:38 AM

So that's how they lasted 700 years.

Posted by: james wilson | Oct 27, 2008 9:18:33 AM

Hilarious. But you must be exaggerating a little more than slightly, no?

Posted by: usdgrad | Oct 27, 2008 12:04:24 PM

@usdgrad - perhaps he isn't - Latin seemed to me to be about only warfare and bee-keeping.

The BBC ran radio programmes a few years ago, on Spanish and German.
The Spanish show started off by teaching you to order a coffee and a cognac. The German show started "ein, zwei, drei...."

Posted by: dearieme | Oct 27, 2008 1:31:53 PM

Tell them to try Greek!

Posted by: elektratig | Oct 27, 2008 5:01:23 PM

Henle, I presume?

Posted by: Kalynne Pudner | Oct 28, 2008 9:07:13 PM

My high school Latin teacher provided a few of us somewhat more advanced students with a lot of Ovid's poetry (and similar literature) - and really wildly pornagraphic stuff it was.

Latin certainly kept my interest for those couple of years.

So I would say that it would be more accurate to say that Latin was about conquest and bee-keeping (and I didn't see too much of the bee-keeping stuff).

As we used to say:

Vidi, vici, veni.

Posted by: krome | Oct 29, 2008 8:45:41 AM

That sounds about right for the Latin, unless you use a Catholic text, in which case it alternates between "The centurion bravely slaughtered the barbarian" and "Mary sees the rewards of the faithful Christians." That's what my book does anyway, it's pretty entertaining.

Posted by: dangermom | Oct 31, 2008 11:14:11 AM


If you're going to mention Napier, you might also want to mention Dalhousie ("Vovi") and Clyde ("Nunc fortunatus sum").

Posted by: Doug Sundseth | Oct 31, 2008 1:48:20 PM

I'm like you write something, really very good!

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