Wednesday, April 03, 2013

March Was a Good Month for Latin

Just think about it: in March we had the beginning of spring, a new pope, and holy week.

Which means we had the vernal equinox, habemus papam, and Maundy Thursday.

Equinox from the Latin words aequus nox, meaning equal night. (During an equinox, the length of day and night is the same.)

Habemus Papam: "We have a pope." Habemus is the first person plural usage of the verb habere (to have) and papam (related to our word papa/father) is in the accusative case (used within the sentence as a direct object).

Maundy Thursday: the word Maundy comes from the Latin word "mandatum" which means commandment. "Mandatum novum" means new commandment. This comes from Jesus' words at the Last Supper: “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another.” (And yes, though at first glance you may think it shouldn't be in the accusative, it's just because the English sentence structure throws you off. The subject of the sentence is "I": if you move the words around to say "I give to you a new commandment," it becomes clear that "commandment" is the direct object, and novum, as the adjective describing commandment, must agree with it in case and number.)

I love that Latin is everywhere we look. It makes teaching and learning it so much more rewarding. I read recently that about 90% of our English words that have at least two syllables are derived from Latin. Pretty lively for a "dead language," eh? Reminds me of some of the plants we saw at the conservatory last week, bearing signs that said, "Am I dead, or just dormant?"

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