Critical Christian
keyword search
home
Home Page
Reviews
Book: The Effective Pastor
Essays
Prayers
Memorials & Celebrations
Personal Matters
Williams Connections
Methodist Connections
Betsy's Gallery
Electronic Congregation
Lent 2011 and 2012
Reviews 2011 Forward
Two Blossoms
Some of My Favorite Latin Things

Some of My Favorite Latin Things

    A bunch of the boys were whooping it up in the Cornerstone Fitness Room.  (I like that opening line; it has a nice ring to it, rolling along at an exact metric pace).  I started the revisit to Latin 101, or Theology 215, observing about an exceptionally creative newspaper columnist that he could be fairly accused of creatio ex nihilo, which, of course, is the impulse behind most of us who take keyboard to fingertips, especially when a deadline requires it and we have little to say... until, of course, we say it. 

    Ben Hur had fewer spears to dodge than I the rebuttals which greeted my foray into a dead language.  The insurance man from out west chimed in with non illegitimus carborundum, in less colorful language, "Don't let the fatherless-child get you down."  Well, not exactly.  The science fiction novelist, once a munitions engineer, remembered from his Catholic school days, In Hoc Signo (Vinces), Constantine's inspiration for making Christianity the official religion of the Roman Empire, turning the cross into a sword.  Eschewing the obvious, no one quoted the crossword puzzle favorites, amo, amas, amat; or veni, vidi, vinci, the only quote I can provide from Mr. Poltrack's Latin class at Burdick J.H.S., 1946.

    Had we more time between sweating and grunting, I would have pulled out one of my all-time favorites, de gustibus non est disputandum, wonderfully applicable to a wide variety of applications, from insisting on one's sexual preference to explaining a fondness for pickled pigs feet. 

    Theology, the realm of the mind in which I live, and move, and have my preening, is replete with Latin phrases. Martin Luther taught me a few.  Like simul justus et peccator, the Christian acknowledgment that it's rarely a world of blacks and whites, but mostly grays. The most famous of Luther's Latin phrases, of course, is sola gratia, which, to my way of thinking, is the very soul of the Gospel... or, for that matter, the very soul of our souls and all human existence, proceeding as life does entirely from the mercy of God.

    While preparing this throw-away essay, I Googled for accuracy the spellings of the Latin phrases above.  But I also found some intriguing phrases I had not previously heard:

    Lex clavatoris designati rescindenda est, which will come in handy at this beginning of the baseball season, by way of demanding the American League follow the superior example of the National League.  Or something for the architects of the new stadiums for the Mets and the Yankees to remember: Gramen artificiosum odi.  And here's one, which when committed to memory, is sure to confound even the most fluent seminarian with half a lifetime of Latin behind him: Quantum materiae materietur marmota monax si marmota mondax materiam possit materiari?  These and other gems can be found at the following website, Funny, Useful, and a Few Risque Latin Phrases.

      The newspaper the other day reported that serious consideration is being given to resurrecting Latin as a standard subject for high school students.  Mr. Poltrack would be pleased. And the coming generation of buddies in dutiful exercise will be better equipped to banter in Caesar's language, far better, if not more congenial, than the babble of Latin which transpired in the whooping room at my gym the other day.

Translations provided on request.  

     



< Back to Essays Archive


1990 - 2017 Bob Howard