Category: Latin

Mnemonic for Second Declension Vocatives

Here’s the mnemonic diddy to remember the morphology of the vocative singular of the second declension (slightly refined):

“If it ends in -us, then the voc. sing. is ‘e‘,

otherwise leave it be, unless of course it’s fili

And a variant:

“If it ends in -us,

then the voc. sing. is ‘e‘,

otherwise don’t make a fuss,

unless of course it’s fili

Marginalia 3.25.2012

An exciting week around and about the World o’ Classics!

  • The Virtual Tour of the Acropolis “is an interactive website that allows various aspects of the historical site to be explored in a unique way. It consists of high-resolution gigapixel images and panoramas of the four main monuments – the Parthenon, the Propylaia, the Erechtheion and the Temple of Athena Nike – as well as a detailed photographic representation of the inner and outer ancient walls surrounding the hill, all accompanied by historical information and a descriptive map.” h/t Austin!
  • Via Boingboing: Lapham’s Quarterly has an interesting (and saucy!) “collection of rude and complaining messages left by monks in the margins of medieval manuscripts… Depictions of sexual consort are frequent, among men and women, among various species of animals, and enough other combinations to make even contemporary readers blush.”

The World’s Most Difficult Languages

A recent article in The Economist (“Tongue Twisters,” Dec 17 2009) recently tackled the question, “what is the world’s most difficult language?” English, despite its admittedly insane orthography, is quickly dismissed as “pretty simple: verbs hardly conjugate; nouns pluralise easily (just add “s”, mostly) and there are no genders to remember… English is a relatively simple language, absurdly spelled.” The complexity of Latin and Greek, although possessing more challenging morphology than English, likewise pale in comparison to other languages.

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1563). Wikipedia.

The Tower of Babel by Pieter Brueghel the Elder (1563). Wikipedia.

What follows is a whirlwind tour of the complexity and diversity of human speech: the tonal system of Chinese, the sonic complexity of !Xóõ, a “click” language spoken in Botswana, Estonian’s 14 (!) cases, or the 50-140 declensions (!!) of Tuyuca, a language spoken in the eastern Amazon basin.

All these delicious linguistic details, however, point to a more fundamental question: does one’s language shape and constrict one’s thought, or are the observable complexities simply superficial variance over deep structural similarity? I lean strongly towards the former, but read the rest of the article and decide for yourself.

A Random Latin Factoid

Latin could still function as the language of international diplomacy into the late Seventeenth Century. In 1689, Russian and Manchu diplomats signed the Treaty of Nerchinsk, which for a time demarcated the boundary between Russian and China. Because the Manchu forces had had two Jesuit advisors, the authoritative version of the treaty was drafted in Latin and then translated into Russian and Manchu.

Interpretation of Catullus 16 at Issue in English Lawsuit

The notorious first (and last) line of Catullus 16, inscribed in a sidewalk near UPENN

The notorious first (and last) line of Catullus 16, inscribed in a sidewalk near UPENN


If you’ve taken LATN101, Catullus 16 needs no further introduction. The vulgar yet clever poem is now part of a high-profile lawsuit:

In London, a poem by the first century B.C. poet Catullus has been the focus for lawyers trying to prove that investment banker Mark Lowe illegally dismissed one of his female employees. Mary Beard, the eminent professor of classics at Cambridge University, discusses the story with host Guy Raz.

Check out the NPR story or Mary Beard’s further comments on the poem.

Vox Romana VI

The Sixth Edition of Vox Romana, is a free bi-monthly podcast about all things Roman. In this edition:

1. Introduction (Hortensia) | 2. Classical News (Hortensia) | 3. The Roman Calendar part 1 (Saturninus) | 4. Plinian Rough Mix (Meredith Bragg) | 5. Aeneid (Anna) | 6. Sign off (Hortensia)

“Festina Lente” for the 21st Century

Jeff Bezos (of Amazon.com fame) has a new venture, a space company called Blue Origin, which promises affordable space flights. In a recent article in the Seattle Times about the unveiling of the secretive company’s launch vehicle, we learn that this cutting-edge firm has a decidedly old-school motto:

blue origin motto

Nuntii Latini

De Augusti Pinochet interitu

Diem summum denique obiit unus ex ferissimis dictatoribus Americae Latinae, cui Civitates Americae Unitae faverant.

Turcia et Unio Europaea

Die Lunae civitatibus Unionis Europaeae placuit, ut aliquot consultationes de Turcia in unionem asciscenda in posterius differrentur.


Fuglesang astronauta Suetus

Scandinavi iam suum proprium astronautam habent, cum Christer Fuglesang Suetus et Robertus Curbeam Americanus naviculae spatiali Discovery insidentes in spatium cosmicum emissi sunt.


Multi mafiosi in Italia capti

Custodes publici Italiae, dum duos impetus in criminalitatem ordinatam faciunt, amplius centum homines comprehenderunt.


De condicione fluminis Rheni (15.12.2006, klo 12.44)Sepulcrum S. Pauli inventum (15.12.2006, klo 12.44)Sollemnitas Sanctae Luciae (15.12.2006, klo 12.43)

Proverbium Diurnum: Sine pennis volare haud facile est

Sine pennis volare haud facile est. (Anonymous)

pron= SEE-nay PEHN-nees woh-LAH-ray -howd FAH-kih-lay ehst.

Without wings it is not easy to fly.

Comment: Pay attention. It is not impossible to fly without wings–just not easy. This proverb makes me think…[more]

(via Bob Patrick’s Latin Proverb of the Day)

Latin Christmas Carols

Via Laura Gibb’s outstanding blog, Bestiaria Latina, comes this list of Latin Christmas Carols:

December 1: Rudolphus
December 2: Angelus ad Virginem
December 3: Aquifolia Ornate
December 4: A Solis Ortus Cardine
December 5: O Viri, Este Hilares
December 6: Conditor Alme Siderum
December 7: Angeli Canunt Praecones
December 8: Regis Olim Urbe David
December 9: Gaudium Mundo
December 10: Resonet in Laudibus
December 11: Adeste Fideles
December 12: Christe, Redemptor Omnium
December 13: Dum Servant Pecus Pastores
December 14: Primum Noel Cecinit Angelus
December 15: In Dulci Iubilo
December 16: Procul in Praesaepi
December 17: Gaudete
December 18: Quem Pastores Laudavere
December 19: Orientis Reges Tres
December 20: Lapsi Caelo Super Gentes
December 21: Silens Nox
December 22: Corde Natus Ex Parentis
December 23: Veni, Veni Emmanuel!
December 24: En, Nocte Venit Media
December 25: O Parve Vice Bethlehem
December 26: Rex Wenceslaus
December 27: Tinnitus, Tinnitus
December 28: XII Dies Natalis
December 29: Dormi Jesu
December 30: Somnio Candidum Diem
December 31: Auld Lang Syne


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