Tuesday, August 28, 2007

More Hot Latin Stuff

This is a clip from "The Life of Brian" where Brian goes through a Basic Latin Lesson with a Roman Guard. (To See the Full Text Go Here).

CENTURION: Conjugate the verb 'to go'.
BRIAN: 'Ire' - 'Eo'. 'Is'. 'It'. 'Imus'. 'Itis'. 'Eunt'
CENTURION: So 'eunt' is...?
BRIAN: Third person plural present indicative. 'They go'.
CENTURION: But 'Romans, go home' is an order, so you must use the...?
BRIAN: The imperative!
CENTURION: Which is...?
BRIAN: Umm! Oh. 'I'!
CENTURION: How many Romans?
BRIAN: Ah! 'I'-- Plural. Plural. 'Ite'. 'Ite'.

This is simply to complete my minimum requirement of Blogs for the month of August because I will be in NYC until after Labor Day. I have found that each month sort of develops an Unofficial Theme... Last month's theme was "Why Steve Jobs Bugs Me." The theme for the month of May was "Ambitious Things Other People are Doing." April's was "Stuff I Bought." Well, August's Unofficial Theme was "How Awesome is Latin?"

And, while searching Google, Ask.com, and Technorati for my blog, I recognized a common error I would like to address: Latin, the Awesome but Dead Language, is often confused with Latin as in Latin America, our Spanish-speaking brothers to the south.

This same error was attributed to Vice President Quayle in the quote: "I was recently on a tour of Latin America, and the only regret I have was that I didn't study Latin harder in school so I could converse with those people."

To Clarify this Point- Latin America is the region of North, South, and Central America where Romance languages are spoken, specifically Spanish and Portuguese. Interestingly enough, Quebec, although a fellow Romance-language speaker, is NOT considered part of Latin America. I think they should make an appeal. They don't speak English, so where DO they belong?

To help you avoid confusion and potential embarassment, here are some examples of

Instances where people say "Latin"
and are NOT referring to
the Awesome but Dead Language:

Latin Dancing: As in "I like watching Latin dancing." They are NOT referring to dances done by men in Roman togas, but to a whole style of dance including the Samba, Paso Doble, and Cha Cha that are characterized by much hip wiggling, short lop-sided skirts, and men in tight pants.
Fun Fact: All Latin Dancing can be done to the 80's Madonna hit Holiday.

Latin Music: As in "I love listening to Latin music." They are NOT referring to their record album of Pange Lingua done in Gregorian Chant, but to a hard-to-categorize genre of music with mostly Spanish lyrics. This includes everything from Mexican Ranchero, Luis Miguel, Control Machete, to Enrique Iglesias and Shakira. They even include Christina Aguilera, just because her last name is Spanish.

Latin Lover: As in "What's hotter than a Latin lover?" Contrary to what you might think, this does NOT mean someone who took Latin and really loved it, then spent the next few years touring Italy and majoring in the Classics. Most typically, it is referring to a sexual partner, usually not a spouse, that is of hispanic origin. Who knew, right?

Latin Kings: As in "Can I join the Latin kings?" This is apparently NOT a bunch of Latin Professors or Catholic Cardinals that have formed a chess club, but in fact is a Puerto Rican Street Gang from Chicago. You can see how this might lead to confusion.

Um... that's all I could find. I'm open to suggestions for More Helpful Hints. And... You're Welcome! --Shawn Butler

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Latin is Smart People Secret Code

People who know how to use Latin should. Use of Latin makes you look Smart. However, trying to use words you don’t understand is one of the fastest ways to look Stupid. I have taken the time to compile a list of tips on common Latin terms and phrases and how they should be used. I call it:
"How to Not Look Stupid when You're Trying to Look Smart"
*Note: This is not a Latin Dictionary. It would be silly to attempt to put all the common words and phrases of Latin that we use into one list. Besides, it's already been done.

Alumnus:
"Nurseling." A graduate from a school. The trick is when to use Alumnus vs. Alumni. Background: Latin nouns consider not only Number (English’s Singular vs. Plural), but also Gender and Case. Below is an easy-to-use chart that should clear this up for everyone.

So, “Alumnus” is singular masculine. For a girl, you should say "Alumna" pronounced "A-LUM-Nuh." "Alumni" is plural for a male or mixed group.

If it's all girls, you could look brilliant by saying "Alumnae," pronounced "A-LUM-Nay," but chances are you'll still look stupid because most listeners will only know enough about this term to think you mispronounced something.

Cum Laude:With praise.” Indicates exceptional academic standing. This one bothers me for a different reason. The correct pronunciation is this: “Coom LOUD-ay.” However, this word has become part of English vernacular, like burrito and déjà vu. For a lingual Purist, I say go ahead and pronounce this with your best Latin accent, but in the interest of just not looking Stupid while trying to look Smart, the modern vernacular holds this to be said as “Coom Lawd.”

I may as well cover the variations of this here as well:
Magna Cum LaudeWith great praise” and
Summa (“SOOM-uh” not “Some-uh”) Cum LaudeWith greatest praise.”

Etc. abbreviation for Et cetera:And the rest.” On this one, I do not follow the decline of modern English vernacular. This is pronounced "Et Set-er-ah," there is no “Eks” sound.
Also, “Etc.” is used entirely too much. There are three rules for its usage:
1. Do not use “Etc.” if you have already made a full list. Example: “Call me if you have any problems, concerns, issues, etc.” What else is there? More synonyms?
2. Do not use “Etc.” when the rest of the list is unknown. Example: “I enjoy reading, sports, astronomy, etc.” Paleozoology? You know, the Rest of the stuff I enjoy…
2. Do not use “And Etc.” This is redundant as “Et” is the Latin word for “And.” Example: “We are studying Western Europe: France, Spain, Italy, and etc.”
3. Do not use “Etc.” when referring to people. For this purpose, use Et Al.

Et Al. abbreviation for Et Alia:And Others.” For More on How Not To Look Stupid Using This One, See Previous Blog.

E.g. abbreviation for Exempli Gratia:For Example.” For More on How Not To Look Stupid Using This One, See Previous Blog.

I.e. abbreviation for Id Est:That Is.” For More on How Not To Look Stupid Using This One, See Previous Blog.

Ibid. abbreviation for Ibidem:In the same place.” Pronounced “ib-EED-em.” This is a time saver, usually seen in academic writing when an author is citing passages from the same source. It is a Smart way of saying, "I already gave you this info." To avoid looking stupid, again we must be careful not to use words we don't know the meaning of, e.g.- "I have collected some great quotes from Plato, Cicero, Ibid, and Anon."

M.O. abbreviation for Modus Operandi:Mode of Operation” Pronounced "MODE-us op-ehr-ON-dee," there is no "die" at the end, no matter what you heard on C.S.I. It refers to the particular method that characterizes a person.

Per se:In and of itself.” Pronounced "per say" but spelled "per se." The spelling is key! For More on How Not To Look Stupid Using This One, See Previous Blog.

Sic: "Thus." This means “intentionally so written;” in other words, the editor or author knew they were misspelling something or using slang or bad grammar in an otherwise formal document.

Vice Versa:The other way around.” Again, the correct pronunciation is this: “vee-kay ver-suh.” However, one will sound Stupider by trying to sound Smart. This has fallen into common usage and is typically pronounced as it is spelled. I often hear imbeciles thinking they sound Smart with strange pronunciations like “Visa Versa” or “Vee-say Ver-say.” Unfortunately, the answer is that they are still wrong.

--Shawn Butler

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

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