Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Dead Languages: Requiescat In Pace

In the Good Ol' days, Latin was reserved for the elite. Between the First Century Anno Domini until the time of Darwin, Latin was an ironic common bond between Scientists and Clergy. Knowing Latin was a clear division between the educated noble class and the vulgar common folk. As of this Morning, August 1st, Latin's been a "Dead Language" for about a thousand years. Even the Vatican abandoned it as the official lingua franca in the '60s. It is time to let it take it's place in history.

This idea that Speaking Latin = Erudition in the year 2007 only leads to a lot of people looking stupid and sounding ridiculous. Exempli gratia- nobody would think you less of an idiot for saying, "I'll Help You if You'll Help Me" in Ancient Mayan or Proto-Latvian, but modern speakers are to be taken as geniuses for saying, "We'll do it Quid Pro Quo" (followed by a smug little wink). Communication is only useful if both parties understand what is being said, ergo, it is useless to say words in a language that no one understands.

Across the internet, bloggers affect intellectualism by spattering pseudo-latin phrases into places they don't belong. Nothing makes you look like a bigger idiot than trying to sound smart and then saying something nonsensical. Here are some tips:

Tip #1: Et Al. This is an abbreviation for "Et Alia" meaning "And Others." It is a useful phrase for writing about a bunch of people, and only having to name the most important one.
Sample Sentence- "Everything about Latin is known by Shawn Butler, et al."
Way to Look Like an Imbecile- Using the English word "All" as in- "I know everything about Latin, I've read Socrates, et all."

Tip #2: Per Se is the Latin phrase for "Through Itself." It should be used to express the idea that something does or does not support an argument in and of itself.
Sample Sentence- "Knowing Latin per se does not make one smart."
Way to Look Like an Imbecile- First, by NOT knowing what it means, as in - "I'm not a Latin Expert per se, but I know a few phrases." This happens when people are trying to sound intellectual, but they really mean the phrase "as they say" or "so to speak."
The Second is by mispelling it, as in - "I shouldn't have tried to use Latin, but now it's out of my hands, per say."
I've also seen these: perse, persay, and even pursay. Wow.

Tip #3: i.e. is the abbreviation for "id est" meaning "that is." It is really the most basic phrase ever created; the equivalent of "that is to say" or "I mean..."
Sample Sentence- "I love the Classics, i.e. Latin and Greek."
People say it all the time in English and never have a problem. "Yeah, I read Plato, that is, I read The Republic by Plato." See how it is getting more specific? That makes you sound smart!
How to Sound Like an Idiot- Now, try to use it to start a list, as in- "I've been to lots of countries, i.e. Italy and Greece." It's subtle, but trust me, it's WRONG. What they are after is another phrase in Latin:

Tip#4: e.g. is the abbreviation for "exempli gratia" meaning "for example." Another No-Brainer in English, but things get tricky when you don't know what you're saying and you're trying to sound smart.
Sample Sentence- "Cicero's best writings are actually speeches, e.g. On Behalf of Milo and Post Reditum in Senatu"

An interesting point just came to mind-- Why even bother putting down any of these terms? In most cases, we're saying the exact same words we would in English. You can't even say they are abbreviations to save space. In the case of Pro Bono (For Free), you're not even saving letters.

Here's the new rule: If you don't know what it means, don't say it/ write it/ type it/ blog it/ link to it. That's it. In fact, we are all just better off forgetting that Latin was ever a language at all. Let's just be honest about it:

Latin is Smart People Secret Code.

So, like any secret code, all the club members should have a little codebook that we can flip to in order to decode our encrypted messages. I suppose that could be next week's blog. Q.E.D.

Fun Fact: Latin is a Language Option on the Screens of the ATM Machines in Vatican City. This way the Cardinals can get some QuickCash. --Shawn Butler


Adam said...

Honestly, one of the funniest post I've read on the interwebs.

Ginny said...

This is great! Very informative and yet hilarious. You're so elite, i.e. l337.

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