Friday 19 January 2024

Some Uses for Latin

1) Fascinating cannibals.
Boris Johnson (1964-), ‘This lunacy about Latin makes me want to weep with rage’, The Telegraph (15 March 2010):

Latin and Greek are great intellectual disciplines, forcing young minds to think in a logical and analytical way. They allow you to surprise your family and delight your friends by deciphering inscriptions. They are also a giant universal spanner for other languages. Suppose your kid scrapes her knee on holiday in Italy. You are much more likely to administer the right first aid if you know that caldo means hot rather than cold – as you will, if you know Latin. Suppose you are captured by cannibals in the Mato Grosso, and you find a scrap of Portuguese newspaper in your hut revealing that there is about to be an eclipse; and suppose that by successfully prophesying this event you convince your captors that you are a god and secure your release – I reckon you would be thankful for your Latin, eh?
2) Sharing Latin quips with others who cannot understand them.
R.D. Blackmore, Springhaven (London: Dent, 1969; 1887), p.13:
   Joshua Twemlow, Bachelor of Divinity, was not very likely to worship anybody, nor even to admire, without due cause shown. He did not pretend to be a learned man, any more than he made any other pretense which he could not justify. But he loved a bit of Latin, whenever he could find anybody to share it with him, and even in lack of intelligent partners he indulged sometimes in that utterance. This was a grievance to the Squire of the parish, because he was expected to enjoy at ear-shot that which had passed out of the other ear in boyhood, with a painful echo behind it. But the Admiral had his revenge by passing the Rector's bits of Latin on—when he could remember them—to some one entitled to an explanation, which he, with a pleasant smile, vouchsafed. This is one of the many benefits of a classical education.
3) Resisting mind-probing technology.
R.A. Lafferty, Past Master (New York: Ace Books, 1968), p. 62:
Your mind-probes and mind-crawls fascinate me, even when they are turned on myself. You have loosed them on me within the last several moments, have you not, Kingmaker? I can feel them crawling like moles through the tunnels of my head. Hah! I’ve got them calked now, though. I’ve but to think in Latin and they can't come into me.