Latin is not dead. It’s sleeping.
Or if you prefer, living vicariously through English and the related Romance languages (the post title translates: accidentally on purpose).
I studied Latin for four years in high school. We translated parts of Caesar’s war histories in De bello Gallico and chapters of Virgil’s Aeneid. I’ve visited Rome. I’ll make it to Greece soon enough.
I truly enjoy classical history and just about every related aspect it has: architecture, mythology, language, commerce, law, trade, sciences, philosophy.
My favorite Latin words:
1. aestate (eye-STOT-ay): in the summer
2. furtim (FUT-tem): stealthily
3. mappa (MOP-uh): napkin
These musings are relevant because in the world of journalism, we encounter plenty of Latin-based phrases or abbreviations.
Greek and Latin roots underlie about 60 percent of the English language, a fact that is even more pertinent in our commitment to communication through the written word. Pictures are eye-candy, but I’m not aware of Marcus Aurelius having a penchant for photography.
Upon fact-checking a word, usually a name, an author can inscribe “CQ” to indicate to an editor that the item has been investigated and is accurate.
Those two initials actually stand for the Latin phrase “cadit quaestio,” meaning “the question falls.” Synthesized, it indicates to the reader, “don’t even ask, I’ve checked already.” The reader can drop the question.
Another Latin word has been morphed into a symbol, sometimes unrecognizable to its Latin roots.
An ampersand is an emblem that is actually a compositional fusion of the letters “e” and “t.” In Latin, “et” means “and.” Thus, a visibly linked “e” and “t” were blended into “&” by some typefaces.
Likewise, when people write a list and end ambiguously with “etc.,” they are actually abbreviating the Latin phrase “et cetera.”
Let’s apply our foundational learning skills now. We know that “et” means “and” … “cetera” means “the rest.”
My favorite ice cream parlor has the best flavors, like cocoa mocha macaroni, broccoli banana bluster, cotton candy carrot custard, etc.
Next time you throw around the phrase “Latin is a dead language,” remember your roots.