I recently enrolled in the Latin 101 course published by The Great Courses to improve my French, Spanish, and Italian. Is it realistic to assume that a familiarity with Latin will help one master these languages? Definitely! After all, these three languages are known as “Romance” languages having been named for the city (Rome) in which Latin developed and flourished (especially in the period from 100 BC to 100AD)’
Familiarity with Latin is generally recognized as a big advantage in learning other Romance language. Indeed many language scholars feel that because of its logic and scope Latin offers great advantage to anyone learning any new language, romance or not. The real Latin zealots feel that – because of its rigor and logic- Latin tidies up your mind. That should help you with all your intellectual pursuits. It also makes me wonder if perhaps we’re losing something by largely eliminating the ” classical”component of the typical university curriculum.
While earning my Masters degree at the University of Chicago, I became enamored of certain Latin words and phrases. The curriculum required students to read scholarly journal articles that often used Latin words, phrases,and abbreviations.
Here are seven of my favorites:
ceteris paribus = > “other things being equal.“ Usage Example: That seems like a fair price, ceteris paribus
sine qua non = > Literally ” which not” This phrase refers to an indispensable condition. Usage Example: A good education is the sine qua non of success in this field.
pari passu => “at an equal pace,” “simultaneously,” “in unison.” Usage Example As his income went up, his opinion of himself increased pari passu
mutatis mutandis = > , ” with all necessary changes having been made.” Usage is Example: the rules for the girls team follow the rules of the boys team – mutatis mutandis
vade mecum = > a much used reference book or resource generally carried with one for easy access. (My first German text was titled Vade Mecum Deutsch. How fondly I remember it). Usage Example: My vade mecum no longer is a small black notebook, now it’s an iPod. It’s still indispensable
Deus ex machina = > an unexpected and fortuitous turn of events. Literally “a god out of a machine.” The term had its origin in ancient Greek theater. Greek playwrights favored surprising and intricate plots. As a result, the playwright often got mired in his own creation. The plot would become so complicated that it took help from on high to get things back on track. Enter the Greek god. At the critical juncture the appropriate deity was “flown in” by being set down on the stage using a crane permanently built into the theater structure for just that purpose. Usage Example Things looked bleak but the cavalry arrived just in time to save the settlers; that’s your classic deus ex machina.
So there’s your little bit of Latin. I had fun writing it and I hope you had fun reading jf. Latin is cool. We’ll do it again.