Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Loquiris Latinae?

Ubi bene, ibi patria (~Pacuvius: "Where one is happy, there is one's homeland.")

I just went to the edit page of New BloggerTM to tweak a post and noticed that my last titles are in Latin, or at least dog-Latin, which is all I can really manage in that speech.

Solitudinem faciunt, pacem appelant (~Tacitus: "They made a solitude (wasteland) and called it peace.")

When I was a mere slip of a college lad, all shining morning face and that, I took a course in the language from a rabbi (seriously!) who had an odd sort of rabbinical humor and was probably a fairly good instructor but who for all his gifts couldn't overcome my sloth and inattention. Plus the irregular verbs were almost as bad as German.

Cito enim arescit lacrima, praesertim in alienis malis (~ Cicero: "Tears dry quickly, especially when they are for others' misfortunes.")

But I did pick up a lifelong fondness for little Latin tags, both for the combination of brevity and meaning as much as for the delight in showing off my erudition.

Aliena nobis, nostra plus aliis placent (~ Publilius Syrus: "We like other people's (things) the best; others like ours.")

One of my favorite military writers, Robert Frezza, created a fictional colonial infantry battalion (of a supposed Japanese interstellar empire, of all things...) whose commander liked to style his officers as possessing "Roman virtue and samurai discipline", and for effect proceeded to scour all literature for the more unusual and interesting of them.

I've always suspected that he invented the very best, but that's part of the fun - since hardly anyone speaks it, Latin is the perfect tool for creating hoary wisdom out of modern cloth.

Nemo ante mortem beatus (~ Ovid: "Call no one happy before his death.")

My enduring problem is that my Latin grammar is, well, about as good as you'd expect for someone who flunked sophomore year Latin. So I tend to mangle conjugations and tenses.

Vae victis! (~Livy: "Woe to the conquered!")

The other thing is, of course, that not many other people share my enthusiasm, so, where once I might have been reading some news item about the doings of, say, Dick Cheney, and made the comment...

Vestigia terrent (~Horatius: "The footprints frighten me.")

...and the listener versed in the same tradition would have immediately understood that in two words I was referring to the story about the fox commenting on the implications of seeing footprints leading to but not from the lion's den and, thus, observing that the doings of the Dark Lord of the Sith revealed him as an unprincipled man and a danger to our Republic, the same is not true today.

So, sadly, I'm afraid all my fondness for these little tags does is, again, to reveal my own talent for elliptical self-amusement, self-satisfaction, and a despicable fondness for useless knowledge. And after all these years, too. Sigh. Our skies may change but not ourselves.

But! I refuse to repine! After all,

Non scholae sed vitae discimus (~Seneca: "We do not learn for school, but for life.")
Ah, well. Acta est fabula. Plaudite!

3 comments:

Lisa said...

Nulli secundus -- carry on :)

basilbeast said...

Great Caesar's ghost! quid ego perfeci!?

Samuel Johnson, talking about Greek:

Greek, sir, is like lace; every man gets as much of it as he can.

http://www.gutenberg.org/files/34472/34472-h/images/fig21.jpg

Actually, if you want them, I do have some Latin textbooks & texts to get rid of.

Lemme know.

But don't go for the lace. :)

bb

Leon said...

My favourite latin quote is: cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscripti catapultas habebunt (when catapults are outlawed, only outlaws will have catapults). I think Caesar said that one...

(I'd recommend a series by Henry Beard, the first book is called "Latin for all occasions" and is where the quote is from)