Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Latin Lover.

Rome in Italy is.

Italy in Europe is.

Egypt in Europe is not, Egypt in Africa is.

Is not France in Europe?
France in Europe is.

Sure, it’s not compelling, but it’s Latin, and I’ve translated it. And I know it sounds a little strange; I followed Consort around the house for the better part of an hour translating at him until he finally groaned, “I’m living with Yoda”. But I’m trying to keep the syntax in the proper place. So speak backwards I do.

Thanks to Lingua Latina, my compelling read on the bedside table, I have a new favorite family. Let others obsess over the upcoming season of “Lost”, or thrill to the lingerie on “Desperate Housewives”. I have “Cranky Roman Family”. There is Julius (Or, as we who read about him call him, Iulius), the Roman man; his Roman woman (I believe they are married, but the book has been coy so far), Aemilia; Marcus, their son, a Roman boy; Quintus, their other son, also a Roman boy; and their daughter, Iulia, a Roman girl (Didn’t see that one coming, did you?).

There are also, we are told, many servants although we only learn the names of Syra, Delia, Davus and Medus. Perhaps they are the personal servants to Cranky Roman family; hard to say. Maybe it’s a whole “Upstairs, Downstairs” thing, where next chapter the reader will get to translate “Does not Syra slaughter a goat?”. Perhaps Delia is carrying the next Roman boy of the Julian line! But that would involve the future tense and Cranky Roman Family lives for now.

I like starting a new language. No matter in what part of the world the language originates, beginning a new language makes you Buddhist -- for a magical time, you only live in the present tense. There are no awkward regrets of past actions which might cause an attack of irregular conjugations. There is no fear of the future and the looming indefinite article. There is only now, and all the verbs do exactly what the other verbs do. They march like placid soldiers across the page, each verb only the slightest variation of what came before.

Not that the Cranky Roman Family cares. They have countless servants. [Actually, they have ‘Centum’ servants. Look it up.] They have their health. They have a nicely drawn family picture of them wearing togas. They're Roman people who live in Rome when that meant something, for Heaven’s sake! But are they happy? Happy they not are. We’ve barely finished discussing their servants and admiring their togas before Iulia starts singing… Well, let my translation speak for itself.

Iulia sings. “Lalala”

Iulia happy is.

Marcus: “St!”
(Which I am guessing is what Roman boys used to say to their sisters, who were Roman girls, to get them to shut up)

Marcus happy not is.

Iulia sings. “Lalla, lalla”.
(That’s my girl, Iulia. Just because she will be married at fourteen to a fifty-year old Senator with a liking for her brother doesn’t mean she shouldn’t sing now.)

Marcus: “Ssst!” (Not much translating needed there). Marcus angry is.

Iulia sings: “Lalla, lalla, lalla”
(Iulia, I am on your side, but you could think about the second verse. Unless that is the second verse, in which case, I am starting to side with your brother Marcus, who is a Roman boy).

Marcus Iulia hits.

Now Iulia not sing, but cry: “Uhuhu!”
(Got to vote with the writer of the Latin text here; this is a far more onomatopoeic word for sobbing than “Boo hoo”.)

Marcus laughs: “Hahahae!”
(The “E” on the end of “Hahaha” makes him an obnoxious Roman boy. Otherwise, he would be an obnoxious American boy, and there would be no benefit to my knowing about him)

Now, isn’t this a vast improvement over your language books from High School? The ones where Pedro and Maria, or Francois and Pascal, decided on whether to go to the cinema or to the library? I’m not agreeing with the choice Marcus made but, considering that he is stuck in the present tense and Iulia refused to sing something besides “Lalla, lalla, la”, I understand why he made it.

And you know it didn’t end there. Quintus arrived! You know, Quintus, the one who Iulia’s future husband, the elderly Senator, secretly desires:

Quintus Marcus sees. Marcus not see Quintus.

Quintus: What? Marcus girl hit, and laugh!

Quintus angry is and Marcus hit. (A little clarity here; Quintus hit Marcus. You can’t look away, can you?). Now not laughing Marcus. Marcus angry hit Quintus

(Now I sound less like Yoda and more like Koko the gorilla).

Iulia: Where is mother? Iulia Aemilia not see.

Iulia Aemilia says: Mother! Marcus Quintus hit!

Marcus: (Angry) “St!” (You tell her, Marcus) Marcus Iulia hits.


And it just goes on and on. Mother Aemilia enters stage left and hears the whole story again, which gives us a frightening glimpse into past tense. Father Julius is awakened, possibly handed a fresh toga, brought in and hears the story again.

And then Julius spanks Marcus!

Marcus cries “Uhuhu”!

I hope to someday read the classic writings of Ancient Rome, the works which are the ancestors of democracy, western philosophy and drama. But it’s hard to imagine it will get much better than small rich children hitting one another.

7 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11:04 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Quinn planto populus rideo risi risum. (Thanks for the laughs!)

7:44 PM  
Anonymous Sage Tyrtle said...

Just a quick note to say how thoroughly I enjoy your entries. The French kids in my textbooks did nothing but eat and throw parties. They didn't even have to attend school, the lucky bastards.

Vous est tres ... um ... funny.

3:36 AM  
Anonymous Melissa said...

A linguist on NPR said the main reason for getting really proficient in Latin is to read the erotic texts which are terribly advanced as well as being filthy. So look forward to that you may.

5:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Err, how does one say 'Latin lover' in Latin?

7:51 AM  
Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

OH MY GOD I HAVE THIS BOOK!!

Sorry about the capitals, but I thought I was the ONLY ONE!

Julia plorat, "Au au au!"

11:53 AM  
Anonymous La BellaDonna said...

OMG. Julia cantat, "La la la la!" Marcus pulsat Juliam. Julia non cantat; Julia plorat. "Au au au!" Marcus ridet. Quintus pulsat Marcus!

11:55 AM  

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