Sunday, 7 April 2013

'Latin phrases everyone should know'

I've just come across this site. Everyone? Should? (Certainly, people who use them should be able to spell them and know what they mean.).

Why they're good
  • they often say more accurately what is meant; Cogito ergo sum, for example has the philosophical advantage (over the English translation) of not having a pre-existing subject ‐ it is the <verb>ing that creates the subject
  • they are the key to more vocabulary. Carpe diem ‐'carpal tunnel', post mortem ‐ 'mortal'...
  • they are un- ambiguous: 'Time flies' could evoke wacky visions of Bentine-esque scientists studying the speed of fruit-flies, stop-watch in hand
Another thing everyone (everyone who uses them, that is)  should know is how to translate and/ or spell them. Cogito ergo sum means the reverse of  'I think therefor [sic] I am' (which means 'I think, the reason for that [therefor] is that I am). And prima* facia‡is presumably a typo for prima fasciae, whatever that means ‐ undercoat specially for use on guttering?  Come to think of it, I have heard on some US TV drama a DA saying /pri:mǝ fæʃǝ/, which might suggest that this typo (facie, the ablative of facies [='at first sight']) ‐ and incidentally, I prefer 'sight' to 'view': when Elizabeth's walking by the lake at Pemberley, turns a corner and suddenly sees the house's façade, sort of thing ‐ may be at large in US law schools.

Another gripe about the translations: pro bono is an adverbial phrase; work done pro bono is done 'for the good' (either for the furtherance of goodness in general or because it in particular is 'a good cause'. Someone who translates it as 'done without charge' presumably says things like 'PIN number'. or 'ATM machine'. Again, I suspect the influence of US legal practice. For an American lawyer, 'pro bono' has been almost fully Anglicized as an adjective meaning 'unpaid'. Give it a generation or two and it will probably have coalesced into a single word.

But does everyone need to know these Latin tags? I have my doubts. Some of them are useful to know, but that's not the same. They're neat and  efficient; I use them sometimes. But they're easy to get wrong, and can interfere with communication. Moreover, they are a custom-made banana skin ‐ and if you slip on it you may get egg on your f... (Verbum sat)

Update 2013.04.08: A few tweaks and fix format.
Update 2013.06.13: Update footer.
Update 2013.09.30.11:15: Footer updated.
Update 2013.11.13.18:35: Footer updated
Update 2014.06.07.23:15: Footer updated:

Update 2015.08.01.16:30  – Added this footnote:

Incidentally, over the years there have been many ‘correct' ways of pronouncing Latin. In Goodbye Mr Chips one of the old teachers mocks Mr Chips for giving  veni, vidi, vici the new-fangled /w/ pronunciation. [I'm referring to the 1969 film. I don't know whether this happens in the book, or in any of the  other  film versions.]  This  is the style preferred by Classics scholars today.]

In one of these styles,  prima has the /ɑɪ/ diphthong in the first syllable...
<autobiographical note>
In a choir I used to sing in, there was a great kerfuffle about how one should pronounce Benedicite. It couldn't have  mattered less, as it happens, since that word does not occur in the text.  But in  Benjamin Britten's world (and particularly at the school he went to when he went there) the first "i" (but not the second) had this same /ɑɪ/ diphthong.
</autobiographical note>
...and in that world, while we're on  the subject the first syllable in habeas corpus had the /eɪ/ diphthong.

In that poem, in the school where Wilfrid Owen learnt his Latin, the last two lines rhymed (and they may have scanned as well – I dunno; even  if they didn't they probably did in schoolboy-speak, where the stress  is often inverted in memorized (and drilled) Latin. Think of aMO aMAS aMAT..., whose actual stress is attested by most [if not all] Romance languages.)

Update 2015.08.18.18:30  – Added this metafootnote:

This is too restrictive. Looking  up something else in the Concise OED I just happened on this:


Update 2015.09.09.12:50  – Added this footnote:
Not before time, I think this joke needs explaining. The correct phrase is prima facie, not prima facia. The reference would have been clearer if I had added an s; but it also depended on pronunciation of the first word with an /ɑɪ/ diphthong. The fascia is part of the eaves of a house (the surface facing out) as distinct from the soffit (the surface facing down).

 Mammon When Vowels Get Together V5.2: Collection of Kindle word-lists grouping different pronunciations of vowel-pairs. Now complete (that is, it covers all vowel pairs –  but there's still stuff to be done with it; an index, perhaps...?) 

And here it is: Digraphs and Diphthongs . The (partial) index has an entry for each vowel pair that can represent each monophthong phoneme. For example AE, EA and EE are by far the most common pairs ov vowels used to represent the /i:/ phoneme, but there are eight other possibilities. The index uses colour to give an idea of how common a spelling is, ranging from bright red to represent the most common to pale olive green to represent the least common.

Also available at Amazon: When Vowels Get Together: The paperback.

And if you have no objection to such promiscuity, Like this.

Freebies (Teaching resources: over 41,800 views  and over 5,800 downloads to date**. They're very eclectic - mostly EFL and MFL, but one of the most popular is from KS4 History, dating from my PGCE, with nearly 2,150 views and nearly 1,000 downloads to date. So it's worth having a browse.)

** This figure includes the count of views for a single resource held in an account that I accidentally created many years ago.

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